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Mom found dead at playground 32 years ago, CA cops say. Now DNA leads to suspect

More than 32 years ago, a mother of three’s “lifeless body” was found at a California park playground, according to officials.

Vicki Johnson, 34, “suffered a violent death” as she was“strangled, suffocated and set on fire,” the Seaside Police Department said in a July 31 Facebook post.

Her “death shocked the Seaside community,” police said.

Without any witnesses or suspect leads, the case went cold and “Johnson’s brutal murder went unsolved for more than 32 years,” the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office said in a July 31 news release.

Now, DNA has helped identify Frank Lewis McClure as a suspect in her death, police said.

It was ultimately Johnson’s drive to survive that would help identify McClure as a suspect decades later, according to police.

Vicki Johnson left behind three sons, prosecutors said.

‘Until the last moments’

Before Johnson was slain, she “put up an incredible physical battle against McClure and fought until the last moments of her life,” police said.

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A “significant” amount of DNA was found underneath Johnson’s fingernails, police said

After the district attorney’s office and Seaside police reopened Johnson’s case in 2021, DNA evidence, including the DNA found beneath her fingernails, was sent for testing, prosecutors said.

Criminalists found that the DNA underneath Johnson’s fingernails matched that of McClure’s, which was in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database after a “previous felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon,” according to prosecutors.

McClure, 46 at the time of Johnson’s death, died in 2021, according to prosecutors. He was not a suspect during the initial investigation.

The relationship between Johnson and McClure, if any, is unknown, police said. The motive “is still unclear.”

“Johnson was one of 10 children,” according to a 1991 article in The Monterey County Herald, the district attorney’s office said. She was a Seaside resident for more than three decades.

“She left behind three sons,” prosecutors said.

Seaside is about 70 miles south of San Jose.

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