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Social media effort could solve cold case

Earlier this year, we observed the 35th anniversary of the torture murder of Donna Ogletree Johnson. Her car, with her two dogs inside, was found about 4:30 p.m. on July 16, 1984 at a dumpster site on Piedmont Road not far from her home where she had gone to dump the trash. A search for her ramped up. It rained that afternoon. Some still say that was the hardest rain they have ever seen. Sadly, it washed away evidence. Some say the crime scene was not secured. Others say it was. It is known the GBI changed its crime scene security protocols if the aftermath of the case. Some four hours after her car and dogs were found, Johnson’s body was located. She had been gagged with her own bra and panties. Her blue jeans had been cut and pulled down to thigh level. She was hogtied, sexually violated with a metal rod, run over by a vehicle and finally dispatched with three blows to the head from a roofing hatchet or similar tool. Johnson lived in Pike County. Her car and body were found in Lamar County. This created jurisdictional issues and further complicated the investigation. As time passed, the investigation petered out. It was never abandoned but crime never sleeps and investigators have full plates of new horrors to deal with daily. Upon taking office, district attorney Jonathan Adams created a cold case team to revisit the crime. It has made some headway. Contrary to gossip, there was DNA collected at the scene and testing of it has eliminated three suspects, sheriff Brad White said earlier this year. Still there have been no arrests so Sgt. Shannon Williamson has taken to social media and created the Justice for Donna Ogletree Johnson Facebook page in an effort to generate leads. This approach could work. Someone out there knows something. Perhaps they have first hand knowledge. Perhaps, someone told them something years ago. The slightest detail could be a big help to Williamson and his fellow investigators. Following the social media posts reveals that many of those interested in the murder know little about the case. And why should they? Most are young. This is ancient history to them. They think some TV investigator could come in and make short work of the case. That is pure fantasy. The reality is this is a twisted, complicated case. But, there are facts. At the 26th anniversary of the slaying, The Herald Gazette delved deep into the case – as deep as we could go without access to the actual case file. At some point, a large portion of the case file did fall into our hands. It was revealing. When Adams created his cold case team, we turned all that information over to him. We are joining the online quest for new leads by creating a Donna Johnson murder archive at All our past stories will be posted there and will be open to all readers. If something jogs your memory or that of someone you know, say something. Call law enforcement or contact us. Your identity will be kept strictly confidential if you so desire. Here’s hoping social media can do what nothing else has done: bring closure to Donna’s family. As much as she suffered on that terrible day long ago when she was tortured and killed, in terms of mental anguish, her family has endured even more. Note: News stories will be back loaded to the Donna Johnson Murder Archive as time allows. You may access it by clicking

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