CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) – Homicide detectives with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday identified a suspect in a Danville rape and homicide that happened just over 33 years ago.
Authorities said the suspect has been linked to the September 20, 1985 killing of 57-year-old Danville resident Virginia Vincent. Vincent’s body was found by a concerned neighbor in her Danville apartment.
Investigators later determined that Vincent had been raped and murdered.
While all investigative leads were pursued at the time the crime was committed, authorities could not identify a suspect and the case went cold for nearly two decades. In April 2002, a DNA profile was created from the evidence found at the crime scene. No match was found, and the case once again went cold for another 15 years.
Over the years, technological advances in forensic science including a method known as “familial search” have assisted law enforcement agencies in analyzing evidence from cold cases.
In November 2017, the Sheriff’s Department submitted a request to the California Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) to conduct a familial search using the DNA recovered at the scene.
Last June, the Sheriffs Office was notified of a possible match by the BFS committee. Homicide detectives later identified a deceased man named Joey Lynn Ford as the likely suspect in Vincent’s rape and murder.
Ford died in 1997 at the age of 36 and is buried at a cemetery in Fairfield. Authorities were able to have Ford’s body exhumed to extract a DNA sample for further testing, which confirmed Ford as the suspect after the extracted DNA sample matched that found at the crime scene.
The Vincent case is the first successful familial search on a cold case in the Bay Area.
Detectives are still working to determine how the suspect and victim might have been connected, but records indicate Ford was arrested for DUI in Danville the day before the killing, a short distance from Vincent’s apartment.
At the time of the homicide, Ford was working as a plumber in the area and Vincent was a real estate agent. Investigators believe this is likely how they might have been acquainted, but they have not confirmed the connection yet.
“The Sheriff’s Office and all of the law enforcement agencies involved were relentless in their handling of this case, they are the true heroes,” said Marianna Wickman, daughter of victim Virginia Vincent. “So many were instrumental in getting us our closure and were sensitive to our needs. I am so very grateful.”
Wickman has asked for privacy for herself and the family.
In a press release, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office thanked the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation for their help. They also expressed appreciation for assistance from retired LAPD homicide detective Rick Jackson, who now resides in the Bay Area and dedicated his time and effort to the case.
“Because the suspect Joey Ford is deceased, there will be no prosecution in this case,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. “However, we hope that the identification of the suspect in the killing of Virginia Vincent brings her family and the community some closure in this painful case.”