The murders of two Pennsylvania women remained unsolved for more than a decade. But after years of DNA testing, a Newport News man has been arrested on charges related to the 2009 deaths of the women at their Huntingdon County home.
Morico T. was arrested. Johnson, 47, on Tuesday in the Newport News. He is accused of shooting Kristen McWhorter and Beatrice Daniels 13 Years ago in their apartment in Mount Union – about 130 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The Pennsylvania State Police pieced the case together using a genetic genealogy DNA test from Reston-based Parabon NanoLabs. The relatively new method uses public genetic databases, such as 23andMe, to craft family trees from an unknown DNA sample.
Knowing the identities of these relatives, can you put together a family tree and fill in all the puzzle pieces to see who our unknown person might be,” said Eileen Gretak, Parabon’s director of bioinformatics.
Gretak said the only people included in the database were those who chose to match law enforcement.
The blood sample used to connect Johnson to the crime scene was collected after state police found MacWorter and Daniels dead from gunshot wounds to the head on January 3, 2009.
Drops of blood were found all over the apartment – on the stairs and on the doors. But DNA analysis found that the blood was not from either of the women. It belonged to an unknown man, according to an affidavit of probable cause compiled by Pennsylvania State Police investigators and submitted to the Daily Press.
McWhorter’s son’s father later told investigators that he was unlike the two women leaving the mess or the spills. The man also said he did not see any blood when he visited the apartment the night before McQuarter and Daniels were found dead, according to the affidavit.
In 2016, police handed over a DNA sample to Parabon to provide a picture of the potential killer using a technique called DNA phenotyping. The analysis indicated that the blood belonged to an African American man with green to hazel eyes, brown to black hair and light to medium skin.
Johnson’s name only came to light after the specimen underwent another round of testing in 2018 – this time using genetic genealogy. The DNA report made progress nearly a decade later, indicating That Johnson could be the source of the blood at the crime scene.
However, investigators had to obtain a DNA sample from Johnson to confirm that the blood was his.
“It always goes back to that traditional one-on-one match where (the investigators) have the person they arrested and the DNA from the crime scene, and they can show they’re the same person,” Gretak said. “We’re just helping them get there.”
The affidavit said that police interviewed Johnson in December 2019. He told police that at the time he was dating McCourter’s close friend. Although Johnson had traveled to Mount Union before, he told detectives that he had never been to McWhorter’s apartment.
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Police said Johnson verbally and in writing consented to a DNA sample during the interview. The affidavit said his sample was identical to the blood from the slaughter.
Additional police said Circumstances lined up from there.
Before their arrest, they interviewed more people – including Johnson’s half-brother and then-girlfriend. The brother told police in 2020 that Johnson “has known firearms” for a while as an armed security guard. In addition, the brother added – their late father owned the same type of gun used in the murder, and the property was transferred to Johnson in 1998.
Johnson’s then-girlfriend said she was planning to visit Mount Union for the weekend, MacWarter and Daniels were murdered, but were canceled at the last minute because she chose to spend time with another man, the affidavit said. The affidavit said Johnson discovered “around this time period” that his then-girlfriend was “intimate” with the man.
The affidavit said Johnson, who was with the New York Department of Corrections at the time, also requested time off work on January 2. He was scheduled to return to work at 7 AM January 3rd.
Johnson is awaiting extradition to Huntingdon County.
Ali Sullivan, 757-677-1974, firstname.lastname@example.org