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California woman's 1991 killer identified after DNA left under victim's fingernails

Police in Northern California have solved a gruesome cold case murder more than three decades after it happened. 

Vicki Johnson was killed on Jan. 3, 1991 in Seaside, a city previously known as East Monterey. Johnson's body was found near a playground in the city's Sabado Park neighborhood after she was strangled, suffocated and set on fire, Seaside Fire and Police wrote in a Facebook post shared on Monday.

"Ms. Johnsons' death shocked the Seaside community due to the details of the brutality," authorities said. "For decades, the case remained cold and left Seaside with a reputation of a violent and unsafe community."

Johnson's case was "one of many" reopened by the Monterey County District Attorney's Office when it launched its cold case task force, Seaside Fire and Police said. Authorities were then able to identify a suspect in connection with the murder, after submitting additional evidence to the California Department of Justice for DNA testing. 

‼️ Major Announcement ‼️ 1991 Cold Case Homicide Solved! On January 3rd, 1991, Vicki Johnson’s lifeless body was...

Posted by Seaside Fire & Police on Monday, July 31, 2023

A sample taken from Johnson's fingernails led authorities to identify Frank Lewis McClure as her suspected killer. He died in 2021 at 77 years old. It is not known if there was a relationship between McClure and Johnson, officials said.

"McClure left significant DNA underneath Ms. Johnsons' fingernails, which could only be a result of Ms. Johnson fighting vigorously for her life," police wrote on Facebook, adding, "The motive of her murder is still unclear. We do know McClure had a history of violence before his passing."

Seaside police are asking anyone with information about unsolved cold cases in the area to contact the department by calling 831-899-6748.

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