Man indicted in Norfolk woman’s 35-year-old cold case murder

Daniel Johnston | Donna Walker (Photos: Norfolk police)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — After more than three decades, Norfolk police say they’ve cracked a cold homicide case.

Daniel Johnston, 66, was indicted on one count of first degree murder Wednesday, accused of killing 20-year-old Donna Walker 35 years ago.

Walker’s father told 10 On Your Side that the family is “ecstatic.”

On Sept. 5, 1981, Walker’s dad reportedly discovered her body in her apartment on Redmon Road. The death was ruled a homicide, but the case went cold for decades.

In 2013, the Norfolk Police Department’s Cold Case Unit reviewed Walker’s case. Detectives reexamined forensic evidence and reached out to potential witnesses. The investigation led to Johnston, who was 31 at the time of the murder.

Johnston is already in prison, serving time in New York. Prison records reveal he was convicted of second degree murder, sexual abuse and assault.

10 On Your Side did some digging. We discovered that after Walker’s death, Johnston was accused of strangling a New York woman, and dumping her body in Danbury, Connecticut.

Later while in prison, Johnston reportedly admitted to another violent crime committed in that same New England city.

Court documents say he brutally attacked two teenagers, less than a month before Walker’s body was found. One of the teens was reportedly raped and pistol-whipped with a gun that Johnston had stolen from a Portsmouth man.

According to a 1996 New York Times article, a former police officer served 13 years for the attack. He walked free after Johnston’s confession.

Walker’s father told 10 On Your Side he doesn’t believe his daughter knew Johnston, and that the suspect instead saw her at her job and followed her home.

According to police, Johnston had lived at an apartment complex on East Ocean View Avenue. He was reportedly known to work at local cemeteries and funeral homes.

Johnston is being held at the Elmira Correctional Facility in New York. He’s awaiting extradition to Virginia.

This investigation is still ongoing. Police ask that anyone who may have known either Donna Walker or Daniel Johnston to call the Norfolk Cold Case Unit at 757-664-7137 or the Norfolk Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.