Friday, March 1, 2024

Virginia Beach police release composite sketches connected to 1986 cold case murder

Have you seen this man? The Virginia Beach Police Department wants to speak to him in connection to the murder of 22-year-old Roberta Walls. (Courtesy of the VBPD)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia Beach Police Department released two composite sketches of a man developed as a person of interest in a 31-year-old cold case on Tuesday.

The blue-eyed, brown-haired man’s DNA was found in a field behind Old Donation Elementary School where Roberta Walls’ body was discovered at 6:30 a.m. on May 15, 1986.

The 22-year-old woman had been sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times, and a toxicology report showed that she had drugs and alcohol in her system, said VBPD Cold Case Detective Angela Curran.

Walls was last seen the night before her body was discovered at Bayside Public Library where she was working. The library is located across the street from the field where her body was found, according to the VBPD.

Curran said that Walls was hanging out with friends that night — individuals who voluntarily gave their DNA to the VBPD and were eliminated as suspects. She also made a phone call around midnight from a location other than the library, although Curran declined to go into detail about where she was, who she was calling or the contents of that conversation.

The composite sketches come as a result of phenotyping, an expensive process that allows scientists to determine physical characters of a person based on a DNA sample.

The body of 22-year-old Roberta Walls was found sexually assaulted and stabbed to death on May 15, 1986 in Virginia Beach. (Courtesy of the VBPD)

Phenotyping is able to predict genetic traits like eye and skin color, as well as the likelihood of a person having freckles, said Ellen Greytack, a spokeswoman for Parabon, the company that did the VBPD’s phenotyping.

In Walls’ case, the results suggest with more than 90 percent confidence that the man was of European descent and fair-skinned. Police now believe that he had blue eyes and light brown hair.

Curran would not go into detail about what type of DNA was tested or where at the crime scene it was discovered.

The VBPD released two composite sketches of the man — one at age 25 and another at age 55. Curran said that while the sketches may not be exact, she hopes they will trigger a memory in someone’s mind and lead them to call the VBPD.

During their investigation, the VBPD created a 41-person “cast of characters” surrounding the case, all of whom were eliminated by voluntary DNA testing.

With the phenotyping results, they were able to eliminate about half of the people of interest they currently have on their list, Curran said.

“We have less people to talk to now,” Curran said. “We’re hoping that someone out there recognizes this person and gives us a call.”

Anyone with information about this case should call Virginia Beach Crime Solvers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP

Send news tips to adrienne.m@wydaily.com.

 

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