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Cold case closed: Detective identifies suspect in 30-year-old murder

Case closed. 
 
The family of Darryl O’Donnell had been waiting to hear those words for 30 years. 
 
In January, Mountain View police detectives received word they would finally be able to provide closure on a decades-old homicide to a family that had been hoping for some news someday about what had happened to their loved one, Darryl. 
 
On Oct. 20, 1990, just before 2 a.m., officers responded to reports of a fight on the 400 block of Moffett Boulevard. Officers rushed to the scene and found 27-year-old Milpitas resident Darryl O’Donnell lying on the ground of the parking lot, suffering from a stab wound. 
 
At the time, witnesses told police that several men had gotten into a fight in the parking lot before all running or driving away in different directions. O’Donnell was rushed by paramedics to an area hospital for treatment, but he ultimately succumbed to his injuries. 
 
“My brother had a God-given gift of entertaining and talking to people,” said his sister, Lisa. “He had a great sense of humor and just loved making people laugh.  He just loved life and people loved being a part of his life.  His life was just beginning as he pursued his lifelong dream of broadcasting.” 


Despite multiple interviews, officers could not identify, at the time, a solid lead to identify a suspect. All detectives had to go with at the time was a description: a white male adult in his mid-20s with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen leaving the area of the fight possibly driving a small, white hatchback.  
 
As the years progressed, and technology advanced, Mountain View detectives continued to return to the case, trying to find a way to better identify a suspect through the evidence that had been collected at the original scene, which included DNA. 
 
In September 2020, Sgt. Dave Fisher, who had recently rotated to oversee the Crimes Against Persons Unit at MVPD, took another look at O’Donnell’s case, and decided to send possible blood evidence to the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory for analysis. Perhaps this time, he thought, we may get a lead. 
 
“You can’t stop,” Sgt. Fisher noted when it comes to cold case investigations. “It always feels like there is one more chance, one more opportunity, to try and solve a case.”
 
In October 2020, Sgt. Fisher received news from the county crime lab that they had gotten a hit on the DNA evidence that he had submitted. John Snowgrass, a Sunnyvale resident, was finally identified as the suspect in Darryl O’Donnell’s murder. 
 
But, as Sgt. Fisher began to investigate further, he learned that Snowgrass died in 2006. Still, the evidence was strong, so he sent the case to the District Attorney’s office for review. 
 
On Jan. 27, 2021, in conferral with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and based on the totality of evidence in the investigation, Snowgrass was officially identified as the suspect in Darryl O’Donnell’s death, and even though he had passed away, we could close the case. 
 
“This is why we do what we do – this is what we work towards every day in this unit,” Sgt. Fisher said. “It is always a small comfort to be able to go and tell a family ‘Finally.’”
 
“My family, friends and I have lived the past 30 years not knowing who killed him.  I feel justice may have been served knowing his killer died in 2006. We don’t have to endure the pain and agony of my brother’s death going through a trial,” Darryl’s sister, Lisa, added. “This brings a great sense of closure to me and my loved ones. It's just amazing to find out this news after 30 years and so thankful for answered prayers.” 

“I wholeheartedly want to thank Sgt. Fisher and everyone involved at the Mountain View Police Department for opening his case and for all the work in bringing closure to my brother’s death.”  

“This case is a true testament to the perseverance and dedication of the men and women who serve this community. We never forget about our unsolved homicide cases,” said Chief Chris Hsiung. “Their continual pursuit for justice reinforces the oath of commitment they made when they became a police officer – to protect and serve, always.”
 
We would like to extend a special thanks to Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the Santa Clara County Crime Lab, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles investigations for their assistance in this investigation. 
 
Media inquiries can be sent to PIO Katie Nelson at policepio@mountainview.gov.

 

Darryl O'Donnell

 

Darryl and his sister, Lisa

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