This week, a 32-year-old case was solved by Northern California police when DNA from a murder victim’s fingernails matched a criminal’s profile in the Combined DNA Index System database.
Vicki Johnson, who was 34 at the time of her murder on January 3, 1991, was discovered in Seaside’s Sabado Park close to a playground after being choked with sand, bit all over her body, strangled to death, and set on fire, according to Seaside Police Chief Nick Borges.
“In those days there was a lot of gang violence but this one shocked everyone – she wasn’t associated with gangs… and to be killed the way that she was,” Borges told FOX on Tuesday.
The mother of three, according to Borges, “fought so hard” that she broke one of her fingernails. Johnson’s case was “one of many” that were revived when the Monterey County District Attorney’s office established its cold case team. Skin under her fingernails was sent to the California Department of Justice for DNA testing.
“It took two years to get a hit back on this particular testing,” Borges said. “That’s because of backlogs, lack of staffing. It’s really sad – it ties into my frustration with cold cases in general.”
That DNA matched Seaside resident Frank Lewis McClure, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 77, an ex-offender included in the CODIS national database. According to the police, they are unsure of McClure’s intentions or whether he and Johnson were acquainted.
McClure has been found guilty of multiple violent offences, including assault with a lethal weapon and domestic abuse of women, according to Borges, who spoke to FOX News Digital. At the time of publication, he was unable to provide specifics regarding the arrests.
“He has been to prison for assaults with deadly weapons and domestic violence against women but nothing that rose to the level that would alarm or alert us that this guy would be engaged with murder,” Borges said. “He was pretty well known in the community, not so much as a great person, but his family was well known and everyone was fairly surprised.”
According to Borges, Johnson battled crack addiction in her latter years.
“Was [the case not investigated fully] because of the lifestyle she was living? Because she was involved in drugs? Either way, I think it’s a failure,” Borges told FOX News Digital.
According to Borges, there are currently 32 unsolved homicides in Seaside as a result of the police identifying McClure as Johnson’s killer. Three more murderers have been found in the past two years as a result of renewed attention on long-cold cases: Robert John Lanoue, who is charged with raping and killing 5-year-old Anne Pham in 1982; Edward Rodriguez, who is still wanted for the 2014 killing of Elizabeth Baker; and Anthony Martezz Randall, who was found guilty of shooting Lloyd Joseph Perkins in 1995, according to CBS News Bay Area.
Since 20-year veteran Borges took over as Seaside’s police chief in August of last year, he has implemented a new rule requiring all investigative supervisors on the department’s cold case unit to submit audits of their unresolved cold cases. Officers can revisit old evidence and interviews using that audit, he claimed.
“Solving cold cases is a preventative tool for future murders – suspects will think twice if they know local police solve murders,” he told FOX News Digital.
“Overall, I just don’t understand how you forget about a case and then let it sit there and then finish your career and move on,” he added. “There’s people all over this country waiting for justice and they’re just hoping that investigators are motivated. That to me is unacceptable.”