Former Phoenix Suns player “grateful” after mother’s cold case murder solved 32 years later
SEASIDE, CA (3TV/CBS 5) - A former Phoenix Suns player is finally getting answers to his mother’s cold case murder 32 years later. Orlando Johnson would go on to play in the NBA and internationally, all while his mother’s homicide was unsolved.
Thanks to a small California police department dedicating resources to unsolved crimes, they were able to tell him this week who took his mom’s life so many years ago. “He was very grateful and thanked us for not quitting and not forgetting,” said Seaside Police Chief Nick Borges. Borges got to talk to Orlando and his family just days ago after solving his mother’s murder decades ago.
The Central Coast police department got an awful call that winter night. “1991, January 3, it’s about 46 minutes past midnight, and Seaside Police get a call of a person in a playground that’s on fire, potentially,” said Borges.
The victim was 34-year-old Vicki Johnson. Her sons were so young at the time, losing their mom in the most heinous ways. “She had sand from the sandbox that was lodged in her throat. The only thing that we can theorize is that the suspect likely held her head into the sand to prevent her from breathing,” said Borges.
But even at the time, they had no leads. “Most neighbors didn’t hear anything or didn’t even answer the door to the police,” said Borges.
Fast forward to 2020, when the Monterey County DA’s Office created a cold case task force, a team member noticed something about Johnson’s case after looking at the evidence file. “He took that case and essentially saw that the fingernails that we had in evidence from Ms. Johnson had never been sent to the California Dept. of Justice for DNA testing,” said Borges.
Those results came back more than two years later, and every single fingernail matched DNA to Frank Lewis McClure, who the police chief said was part of a well-known family in Seaside back then.
McClure died of natural causes in 2020, right around the time the DNA testing began. “It really bothers me because it tells me that he had the confidence and arrogance that he’d never be caught, and he stayed in Seaside,” said Borges.
Chief Borges said there’s no known relationship between Johnson and McClure, and they hope others with information about a motive will come forward.
The police chief said Orlando Johnson lost not only his mother as a little boy but also seven other family members in tragic circumstances, including a house fire and heart attack.
In the face of so much tragedy, the police chief is in awe of the man he’s become. “He still today is a success, and I’m just so honored that we can finally give their entire family some answers,” said Borges.
Arizona’s Family did reach out to Orlando Johnson in hopes of interviewing him but did not hear back. The police chief said their department would do an audit every three years to take fresh looks at every cold case they have.
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