06:41 PM CST on Friday, November 30, 2007
HOUSTON—DNA testing and the dogged efforts of a retired officer have helped solve the 1984 rape and murder of a teen, police said Friday.
HPD, Crime Stoppers
Fourteen-year-old Sharon Darnell’s body was found in an abandoned Houston apartment building on the afternoon of Feb. 7, 1984.
She was stabbed at least seven times in the neck. Her body and been bound and there was evidence she had been sexually assaulted.
An object inserted into her throat also contributed to her death, police said.
“It was a very gruesome scene. The investigators that worked on it were convinced they knew who the guilty party was but were unable to prove it,” said former Houston police Sgt. John Burmester, who investigated the case and has kept track of it since retiring in 2003.
Police identified Frederick Johnson, who was 23 at the time, as the prime suspect.
Blood was found on his clothing and semen was found on the victim.
But in 1984, DNA testing of evidence was not available.
The case went cold until May when Officer Connie Park, with the homicide squad, talked with Burmester, who asked investigators to take another look at it and several other cases.
“It was amazing. He knew the date, the incident number, the location.
He knew everything about it. He had his own database, which he kept over the years,” Park said.
Burmester, who estimated he investigated at least 1,000 murders in his 31-year career, said this case stuck in his mind because of its brutal nature and because he had a good idea of who was responsible.
“We had come to the point where the evidence that was collected back then could be analyzed and the results could come back showing that Johnson either was or was not the suspect,” he said.
Blood and other DNA evidence was sent to a private lab in Dallas.
The test results showed the victim’s blood was on Johnson’s clothing and the semen found on the victim was his as well, said Houston police Sgt. Eric Mehl.
Johnson, now 47, was charged on Tuesday with capital murder in Darnell’s slaying. He is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for another sexual assault involving a 16-year-old girl.
He was denied parole in 2003.
“The good Lord works in mysterious ways,” Burmester said. “I guess justice seems to catch up with people.”
Darnell’s family is also relieved that somebody has been charged in their loved one’s death, Mehl said. Her slaying is one of nearly 3,000 unsolved murders dating back to 1970 that the Houston Police Department’s cold case squad is investigating.
Johnson, who has been convicted twice before, in 1979 and 1984, of sexually assaulting minors, will be brought back to Harris County to face the new charge, Mehl said.
“I think any of us who have done this for all these years, we have these cases that you don’t forget them,” Mehl said. “As the technology improves, now we can go back and hold these people accountable for what they did after they thought they had gotten away with it.”
(Article courtesy of Channel 11-News-KHOU)
3 responses to “DNA HELPS SOLVE 1984 MURDER OF SHARON DARNELL”
I was 20 years old when Sharon was murdered and I remember it like it was yesterday. You may ask why? Maybe because she was my 1st cousin and we use to play together all the time. Thank God for the dedicated officer who still cared. Maybe now she can rest in peace. Thanks to the officer for caring. May Mr. Johnson rot in hell!
Dear god i love u thanks for everything u do u so amazing thanks for putin family at peace she is a angel rip my love .
i was the last person to see her., her and i was in rotc., and we was also in drill team., she came up to me when i was walking to school., and to tell mr. lovett that i didnt see her.,but she would be in practice., and i told her ok., and start walking to the school