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Suspect arrested in 2009 killings

Johnson waives extradition in Huntingdon double homicide

After more than a decade and advancements in DNA technology, a suspect has been arrested in the 2009 double homicide case in Shirley Township, Huntingdon County.

Morico Tyrone Johnson, 47, of Newport News, Virginia, was taken into custody by the Newport News Police Department and waived extradition back to Huntingdon to face two counts of criminal homicide for the Jan. 3, 2009, shooting deaths of Christine McWhorter and Beatrice Daniels, Huntingdon County District Attorney David G. Smith said on Thursday.

The case has been actively pursued for 13 years, court documents show, and on Thursday afternoon, Smith praised current and retired state police officers for their diligence in investigating the women’s deaths.

When state police out of Huntingdon responded to apartment G-4 at the Chestnut Terrace Apartments along Federal Drive on Jan. 3, 2009, they found the two females dead of gunshot wounds to the head. The women were found in an upstairs bedroom, according to court records, and investigators found two live .25-caliber bullets and an additional five expended .25-caliber cartridges in the bedroom.

A blood droplet found on an interior staircase and additional blood droplets found on the interior portion of a rear storm door were sent to the state police laboratory in Harrisburg for analysis, which determined the blood came from an unidentified male.

The case appeared to go cold until March 14, 2016, when the processed DNA sample was sent to DNA Solutions, which prepared the samples for Parabon Nanolabs. On May 6, 2016, that lab offered a snapshot of a suspect, based on DNA testing not available when the killings occurred.

According to Parabon Nanolabs, the blood droplets belonged to an African American with brown to black hair and with medium to light brown skin. In addition, the lab determined the suspect would have green to hazel eyes and a few to no freckles.

Two years later, on July 12, 2018, police requested additional testing of the DNA recovered at the scene of the crime and an Oct. 9, 2018, report by Parabon identified Johnson as a potential match.

More than a year later, on Dec. 12, 2019, police interviewed Johnson at his residence in Newport News.

Johnson told police he traveled to Mount Union in the past to visit his girlfriend, who was a friend of McWhorter. But he told police he was never in McWhorter’s home. During that interview, Johnson also consented and provided a DNA sample via a swab of the inside of his cheek. That sample was sent to the state police lab in Harrisburg for DNA analysis, and on Jan. 3, 2020, the lab report indicated Johnson’s DNA matched the blood droplets found at the crime scene.

During the course of the investigation, police also received Johnson’s employee time cards from the New York Department of Corrections for the time period of the homicide, court records state. Johnson was off work on Jan. 2, 2009, and his shift on Jan. 3, 2009, began at 7 a.m. Police noted travel from Mount Union to his workplace was about four hours and 43 minutes, or about 294 miles.

The women were killed sometime between 6:03 p.m. Jan. 2, 2009, and 11:49 a.m. Jan. 3, 2009, according to court records.

Police also interviewed Johnson’s half brother who, when asked about knowing anyone who had a .25-caliber handgun, stated that his father had owned one and Johnson inherited all of their father’s belongings in 1998.

On Feb. 12, 2020, officers interviewed Johnson’s former girlfriend, who said he had never been in McWhorter’s home. In addition, she moved from Mount Union to Philadelphia in 2008, she told police. However, she told police that she was supposed to visit McWhorter on Jan. 1, 2009, for the weekend, but ended up changing her plans, staying in Philadelphia with another man. She told police it was around that time that Johnson found out about the other man.

McWhorter’s last incoming text, at 12:39 a.m. on Jan. 2, came from the woman’s cellphone number, police reported. McWhorter did not respond.

State police at Huntingdon received an arrest warrant for Johnson on

May 23, and he was taken into custody by the Newport News Police Department. He will be transported back to Huntingdon County for arraignment and a preliminary hearing, the district attorney announced in a news release.

Smith and First Assistant District Attorney Ethan V. Wilt will prosecute the case.

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