Vacaville Police Arrest Suspect in 34-Year-Old Homicide Cold Case

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VACAVILLE — It was an emotional and heart-wrenching announcement made by Vacaville Police Chief John Carli that a suspect in the 34 year-old cold case murder of DeAnna Johnson was arrested.

Johnson was a 14 year-old junior high school student who attended a neighborhood party but never returned home.

“Today is a day that DeAnna’s family thought would never come,” said Ginger Johnson, DeAnna’s mother.

Marvin Markle, 51, attended the same party when he was 17 years old and was interviewed after DeAnna’s battered body was found along some railroad tracks the next day.

Police refocused on him as a suspect 15 years ago when he was the primary suspect in the murder of Shirley Pratt in 2001.

Police say they got key information from witnesses who testified outside the presence of the Pratt jury in 2014. They are believed to be witnesses who Markle spoke to about the DeAnna Johnson case. But police say they’ve been piecing the case together for three decades.

“Some pieces in the ’80s, some pieces in the ’90s and to the 2000s…it’s not one piece of evidence, it’s all pieces to the puzzle,” said Detective Matt Lydon.

Markle was serving an 80-year sentence for the murder of Pratt and was picked up at Kern County State Prison and transferred to Vacaville for booking on murder charges.

Lydon and other members of the police force grew up in Vacaville and were deeply affected by the murder.

“It’s been cruel to this community for way too long,” Carli said.

In the audience were some of DeAnna’s classmates. Some like Mary Borchers believed Markle was responsible all along. She and others even marched with signs outside Markle’s Butte County home long before he was arrested for the Pratt and Johnson murders.

“I only hoped this day would come, I begged, I prayed this day would come,” Borchers said.

She even confronted him once at his home.

“I remember he said to me ‘You’ll never get me Mary,’ as he was spitting on me, and I said ‘Count my words, honey, I will get you,'” said Borchers.

Vacaville police say they are not resting easy. They are hoping the arrest might spark some memories and that others might come forward with information strengthening their case.

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