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Suspect charged in 25-year-old cold case murder in Northern California

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Authorities in Northern California have charged a suspect already serving a life sentence with the 1996 cold case murder of a 21-year-old woman, the sheriff’s department said in an announcement Thursday. 

Priscilla Lewis, 21, was found dead in the basement bathroom of a restaurant where she worked as a waitress on September 24, 1996, in Crockett, California, in the East Bay region of San Francisco. Her cause of death was determined to be drowning, FOX 2 in Oakland reported. 

Investigators submitted additional DNA evidence to the crime lab in 2020 where it was able to be analyzed for the first time. 

Danny Lamont Hamilton, 51, who is in a Southern California prison serving a life sentence on unrelated sexual assault charges, was charged with one count of murder with several enhancements, including murder by lying in wait, felony murder kidnapping, felony murder burglary and felony murder during an attempted rape.

A murder charge was filed by prosecutors against prison inmate Danny Lamont Hamilton, alleging he drowned Priscilla Lewis during an attempted rape and burglary at a restaurant in the city of Crockett on September 24, 1996. (Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office)
(Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office)

Prosecutors alleged Hamilton drowned Lewis during an attempted robbery and rape at the restaurant. 

Danny Lamont Hamilton is currently an inmate the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. (Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office via AP)
(Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Lewis’ cousin, Troy Kinslow, told the Associated Press detectives said, ‘you have been on us’” regarding her unsolved murder. “My thousands of texts and calls got them fired up.”

“It’s been a long process and it’s been very tiring emotionally and physically but I never gave up,” he added. 

Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said A DNA match has helped cold case investigators solve the killing of a San Francisco Bay Area waitress whose body was found in a restaurant’s basement bathroom 25 years ago. (Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office)
(Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office)

During the initial investigation, dozens of people were interviewed, search warrants were served and evidence was submitted to the crime lab – none linking Hamilton to the crime, FOX 2 reported. 

“I would like to recognize the many sheriff’s office homicide detectives and crime lab staff for their dedication and relentless work in the murder of Priscilla Lewis in 1996,” Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston in a statement, according to KPIX-TV in San Francisco. “We continue to investigate unsolved homicides in an effort to provide families, like that of Priscilla Lewis, with answers and some closure and to hold suspects accountable.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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