By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
Homicide Detectives from the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff have identified a suspect in the September 20, 1985 killing of 57-year-old Virginia Vincent. On that day, a concerned neighbor found Vincent’s body in her apartment in Danville and notified police. It was later determined that she was raped and murdered.
All investigative leads were pursued, at the time however, no suspect was identified, 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 once again the case went cold for another 15 years. Over the years, there have been technological advances in forensic science that have assisted law enforcement agencies in analyzing evidence from cold cases. One method is known as “familial search.”
In November 2017, the Sheriff’s Office submitted a request to the California Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) to conduct a familial search using the DNA recovered at the scene.
In June 2018, the Sheriff’s Office was notified of a possible match through the diligent work of the BFS committee. Homicide Detectives later identified Joey Lynn Ford as the likely suspect in the killing of Vincent. Ford died in 1997 at the age of 36 and is buried at a cemetery in Fairfield, California. Ford’s body was later exhumed. The Office of the Sheriff Forensic Services Division Crime Lab confirmed Ford as the suspect after a DNA sample extracted from him matched that found at the crime scene. This is the first successful familial search on a cold case in the Bay Area.
Detectives are still working to determine how the two might be acquainted, but records indicate Ford was arrested for DUI in Danville the day before the killing, just a short distance from the crime scene. 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 the likely connection between them, but that remains unclear.
“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 asked for privacy for herself and the family.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to acknowledge the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services and Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in this investigation. We would also like to thank Rick Jackson, a retired long-time LAPD homicide detective who now resides in the Bay Area, for his dedication and work on this 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.”
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