Authorities found Donna Walker, 20, murdered in her Norfolk apartment. This shocked the otherwise peaceful city. Her father initially found Donna after she failed to show up for a hair appointment. However, the case remained cold for over three decades due to a lack of leads. Investigation Discovery’s “On The Case with Paula Zahn: Wedding Day Nightmare” chronicles the horrific murder and shows how law enforcement officers managed to find the killer. Let’s dive into the details and learn more about the crime.
What happened to Donna Walker?
Donna Walker was only 20 years old at the time of her death and was close to her family. People who knew her described her as a bright, cheerful young woman who was always willing to help others and make new friends. Donna was known for her kindness and openness to helping others. The 20-year-old was also a popular figure in her community, making her tragic death all the more shocking.
Donna was to attend a haircut appointment at a hairdresser on September 5, 1981. She had a wedding to attend. Her father went to her Norfolk, Virginia apartment to check on Donna after the 20-year-old failed to attend the appointment. As Donna’s father discovered the door slightly open, the scene at the apartment was straight out of horror movies.
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He entered the room to find Donna’s disfigured body. He saw her lying on the ground with many stab wounds. Although the police were immediately notified, Donna was already dead when the authorities arrived at the scene. Initial examination revealed that the attack was violent and frenzied. An autopsy showed that the victim had been stabbed nearly 50 times. This led to her death. Authorities also found evidence of forced entry and were able to remove a foreign fingerprint from the toilet seat.
Who killed Donna Walker?
The investigation into Donna’s death was difficult for law enforcement officers because there were no witnesses or leads. The police searched the crime scene thoroughly but were unable to find any leads or witnesses. They also failed to locate the fingerprint that did not match those already in the system. Authorities also interviewed several acquaintances of the victim but were unable to make any progress as they had no idea what would have motivated the 20-year-old cheerful man. The case progress was slowed to a crawl with no suspect immediately and no match for the fingerprint taken from the crime scene.
The case remained unproven for more than 30 years, turning cold. Donna’s family waited patiently for closure. In 2013, cold-case officers decided that the investigation should be reopened and submitted the fingerprint for further identification. The fingerprint technology for fingerprint testing had improved a lot by that point. Soon, the police found that the fingerprint taken from the toilet seat belonged to Daniel Johnston, who was already in our system. Detectives quickly took Daniel’s photo and started showing it around. Donna’s family denied that they had ever seen him in the victim’s company.
Detectives were convinced that Daniel was involved in the crime and traveled to New York. Daniel was being held behind bars in a New York jail for an unrelated murder conviction, sexual abuse conviction, and assault. Officers found Daniel’s cellmate in New York and discovered that he had commented on the 1981 killing of a person. With the evidence mounting against Daniel’s case, he was officially charged with Donna’s murder.
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Where is Daniel Johnston now?
Daniel, who was being presented in court to face charges for the murder of Donna, pled not guilty but insisted that he be innocent. The prosecutors made a different argument, and Daniel was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murder in 2018. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2018. He is currently in Attica Correctional Facility and is eligible for parole in 2021. If Daniel is granted parole in New York, however, he will be transferred to Virginia to complete his life sentence.