Man Gets 115 Years Sentence for 1998 Cold Case Murder and Rape

Eva Fu
By Eva Fu
April 29, 2019US News
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Man Gets 115 Years Sentence for 1998 Cold Case Murder and Rape
Johnny Jones, from Indianapolis, was sentenced to 115 years in prison for murder on April 26, 2019. (Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department)

INDIANAPOLIS—An Indianapolis man received a 115-year sentence for the brutal killing of a young woman two decades ago.

The murdered woman, Kenya Edwards, was a 26-year-old young mother. Police found her charred body in the basement of her home on the east side of Indianapolis after the firefighters put out the blaze. Her wrist and feet were tied with electrical cords.

An autopsy found that Edwards died of burns and smoke inhalation. The police noted signs of struggle in the house, including a broken window in the rear of the residence.

Her killing remained a cold case until 2015, when DNA testing of collected evidence by forensic specialists identified Johnny Jones as a suspect. Detectives also analyzed Jones’ criminal history and found similarities in the previous crimes Jones committed and the 1998 murder.

Jones, 61, had been in and out of prison since the 1970s, first serving jail time on account of rape, according to Fox News. He was also convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms as a previous sexual offender in 2014 (pdf).

A jury had convicted Jones this month of sexual assault and murder (Class A Felony) after a three-day jury trial. Jones will get 65 years for murder and 50 years for rape.

“We are pleased that after more than twenty years of uncertainty regarding the circumstances of her death, the family of Kenya Edwards will now have the finality of this conviction and what is effectively a life sentence for this murder,” Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a statement on April 26.

“As I stated in prior cold case convictions, it is undoubtedly difficult for families to have passage of any time, let alone years, without knowing how a loved one was lost to violence,” Curry said.

DNA profiling has become an effective tool in identifying suspects in property and violent crimes. It was widely used after the 9/11 terrorist attack to help identify the over 2,600 victims. As of April 2018, the National DNA Index contained over 13 million offender profiles.

Similar Case

In a more recent case, the DNA evidence helped police trace back to the suspect involved in the 1979 cold case triple murder in California.

The then 37-year-old Barbara Becker was found stabbed dead in her house by her two young sons in La Jolla, and the case remained unresolved until FBI agents used a public access genealogy database.

Cold case murder of San Diego mom solved through DNA testing
Two file photos of Barbara Becker, who was killed in 1979. (San Diego Police Department)

Using the voluntary DNA samples of family members of the potential suspect, police were able to find the suspect, Paul Jean Chartrand. His relatives confirmed that he resided in the area as the murder occurred.

“The entire investigative team is grateful the case has been solved, however, it is tempered by the fact it took forty years to give Barbara Becker’s family the answers they deserved and that Chartrand was able to avoid justice for 16 years after Barbara Becker’s murder,” according to a statement from the San Diego Police Department obtained by 10 News.

The number of murders and violent crimes in the United States dropped slightly in 2017, according to crime statistics released in September 2018.

“Crime declined nationwide last year, consistent with our earlier analyses of 2017 data in the nation’s 30 largest cities,” Ames Grawert, senior counsel for the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, told the Washington Times.

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