After 37 years, a murder case gone cold comes to a close in Norfolk

A Norfolk Jury convicted Daniel Joseph Johnston, 68, of first-degree murder for the 1981 death of Donna. Walker (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Norfolk Police Department)
A Norfolk Jury convicted Daniel Joseph Johnston, 68, of first-degree murder for the 1981 death of Donna. Walker (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the Norfolk Police Department)

NORFOLK — Justice prevailed in Norfolk on Thursday, even if it was a little late.

A Norfolk jury convicted Daniel Joseph Johnston, 68, of first-degree murder for the September 1981 death of 20-year-old Donna Walker, according to a news release from Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Norfolk Police investigated the murder, but failed to develop a suspect. It went cold for 35 years until 2013, when detectives reopened the case.

After a three-year investigation — which included a review of forensic evidence and interviews with potential witnesses — police developed Johnston as a suspect, according to a news release from Norfolk Police.

Related story: Retested DNA could be break in 1992 cold case sexual assault

A grand jury indicted Johnston in Norfolk Circuit Court on Dec. 21, 2016 for the fatal stabbing of Walker in her Redmon Road apartment in Ocean View. At the time of the indictment, Johnston was in custody in New York where he was serving prison time for unrelated offenses, and he was eventually brought to Norfolk for this case.

Walker’s father found her dead on Sept. 5, 1981. Johnston was 31 at the time of the murder. He lived in the Harbor North apartments in Ocean View, and worked at area funeral homes and cemeteries.

The jury on Thursday also recommended that Johnston serve a life sentence in prison; the judge imposed the jury’s recommended sentence, meaning the defendant was also officially sentenced Thursday.

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