20 years later, Jenny Lin’s memory lives on

Photo by Kelly Chan
Photo by Kelly Chan

Summer evenings at Canyon Middle School consist of student musicians creating music and making lasting connections. The program offers the student musicians opportunities to further serve their community on weekends by making eco-friendly beads, or developing professional skills by leading the program.

This program was established in memory of Jennifer Lin, a 14-year-old student who attended Canyon Middle School. On May 27, 1994, Jenny took the bus home from school. Later that evening, she was found murdered in her family’s Palomares home. It was right before Memorial Day weekend.

Since then, Jenny’s parents John Lin and Mei-Lian Lin established the Jenny Lin Foundation, which focuses on spreading child safety awareness and advocating for youth musicianship. John and Mei-Lin have let Jenny’s legacy inspire many other people around the Bay Area.

This is the 20th anniversary of the case, and the investigation has been very long, intensive and thorough. There have been no suspects arrested in the case, but the sheriff’s office believes that Jenny’s killer may already be in jail.

Sheriff’s officers named Sebastian Alexander Shaw a suspect in the case in 2006, though they have not discussed any evidence against him. Now 46 years old, Shaw was convicted of three 1990s murders in Oregon and sentenced to three life sentences.

“I believe that there is a good likelihood that he is our guy,” said Detective Greg Landeros, one of numerous officers who have been on the case from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Landeros also believes that investigators must keep an open mind and continue looking for other leads.

“Our love for Jenny was so strong, and continues to be so strong, so we don’t want her to die in vain,” said Mei-Lian. The Lins spoke about how anyone would have had a hard time dealing with such a tragedy, and could easily fall into depression.

“We don’t want her to be a statistic,” added John. “She came into the world with a purpose.”

Jenny had aspired to be part of the CVHS track team, played music and enjoyed her life laughing with friends. The Lins created the program that would allow other students to play music and enjoy their times with friends too. The foundation plans and runs a six-week long program every summer, along with other events to spread safety awareness in the community. The Lins said that this program was something Jenny would have participated in.

“We want Jenny to be proud of us,” said Mei-Lian. “That’s why we’re doing this. We see kids having fun. We’re making a difference. Even if it doesn’t impact the rest of their lives, it brings them joy for those few years.”

Through the program, the Lins have given back to the community that supported them in their time of need. By seeing the difference that they made through the program, the Lins were able to emotionally cope with Jenny’s tragedy.

What would the Lins say to Jenny today? “You were the best daughter that any parent could hope for. Because of you, we have the courage and energy and be able to serve other children. We know if you were able to be here, you would have been doing all this yourself,” said Mei-Lian.

“Whenever you look at us, I know you’ll have a big smile on your face,” said John.

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