LAWRENCEVILLE - More than two years of prayer and persistence finally paid off on Tuesday when family members of a 30-year-old Norcross woman learned police identified a suspect in her brutal stabbing death.
DNA evidence has linked a man serving a 95-year prison sentence for murdering two women in Gary, Ind., to the slaying of Aisha Davis two years ago, according to Detective J.D. Smith of the Gwinnett County Police Department.
"Further DNA analysis is pending," said Smith, who got the results back on Tuesday afternoon. "The only thing we can say is there was a hit on CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the national DNA database."
Preliminary results suggest the killer's DNA from the crime scene matches that of 27-year-old Anton Kawan Johnson, incarcerated at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, about 30 miles east of Gary, Ind.
Afia Stevens, the 33-year-old sister of Aisha Davis who resides in Bowie, Md., said she was "in complete shock" upon hearing the news.
"It's just a lot to absorb. Then it was a flood of emotion - tears of grief and joy and sadness and anger," Stevens said. "I wish he could know what he took from us. I wish we would be able to tell him what we lost and what we've gone through since then."
Authorities said Johnson and Davis were acquaintances. Davis was a single mother who lived at Alexander Apartments on Montrose Parkway in Norcross. Johnson was staying with his cousin in the same complex, Smith said.
Police officers sent to check on her welfare Dec. 5, 2003, found Davis inside her apartment dead from numerous stab wounds. There were no suspects and the case soon went cold, Smith said.
Stevens described her sister as vocal, saying "when she didn't like something, she made it known," but said she had no enemies the family was aware of. At the time of her death, Davis was preparing to move in with her other sister in Acworth and planning to purchase a bicycle for her daughter's birthday.
Davis' daughter, then 4 years old, was in the temporary custody of her father elsewhere in Norcross, Stevens said.
Smith was initially assigned to work the Davis case, but he left the homicide unit in February 2004 to work on the department's Crime Suppression Unit.
Upon returning to the homicide unit five months ago, Smith said he began reinterviewing witnesses and re-examining evidence.
"It kind of bothered me that it never was solved," Smith said. "I started looking into it and luckily the supervisors gave me time to do what I had to do."
Johnson was convicted in September 2005 of murder and involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 14, 2003, deaths of 30-year-old Regina West and Tasha A. Johnson, 30, at West's home in Gary.
Prosecutors there alleged Johnson argued with Tasha Johnson (who was not related to him) when she asked him for money he owed her, according to the Gary Post-Tribune. Johnson reportedly reached into his back pocket, pulled out a handgun and shot Tasha. He then pursued West from the home and gunned her down in her car.
Even though several years had passed since her sister's death, Stevens said she never gave up hope that the case would be solved. She spoke with Gwinnett police investigators about three times a year and tried to spur them on. Stevens called Smith her family's guardian angel.
"I think through prayer all things are possible," Stevens said. "I know that one day I'll have some real closure on this."