NORFOLK, Va. — Detectives from the Norfolk Police Department and a prosecutor from the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office were awarded by the FBI on Thursday.
The individuals received the FBI’s 2019 Biometric Identification Award for using the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System to solve the 1981 murder of Donna Walker and bring her killer to justice.
Investigator Jerry Edwards, Detective Neal Baldwin, Detective Melvin Grover, Detective Victor Powell, and Detective Ray Smith all received the award, and Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Evans II also received the award.
The case involved 21-year-old Donna Walker who was found murdered in her Norfolk apartment, she had been stabbed more than 40 times on September 5, 1981.
Evidence collected at the crime scene included a latent fingerprint recovered from the bathroom. Walker lived alone, so the source of the print became a focus in the investigation. The fingerprints of more than 160 potential suspects were compared to the evidence, but no matches were found.
With no new leads, the case went cold.
Over the next three decades, investigators continued to submit the fingerprint evidence to the FBI’s national latent print database searching for new investigative leads.
On January 28, 2015, the evidence was submitted to the FBI’s new advanced Next Generation Identification (NGI) System and within 30 minutes potential matches were found.
A match included Daniel Johnston. He was incarcerated in New York for another homicide.
Johnston was positively identified as a suspect through additional fingerprint analysis. He was indicted on state charges in late 2016 for the murder of Donna Walker and brought to Virginia to stand trial.
In October 2018, Johnston was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He will conclude his New York prison sentence before reporting to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division present the Biometric Identification Award each year to an outstanding law enforcement officer or agency that has solved a major case using the NGI System, which is the world’s largest and most efficient electronic database of biometric and criminal history information.
Biometric information includes fingerprints, palm prints, irises, and facial recognition.
The award was presented to the Norfolk officials on Thursday at the Norfolk Police Department’s Third Precinct.