DNA Links Inmate Danny Hamilton to Killing of Priscilla Lewis 25 Years Ago in California

Police said they solved the 1996 killing of Priscilla Lewis after a DNA match linked current inmate Danny Lamont Hamilton to the 25-year-old California slaying.

Hamilton, 51, was charged with the murder of the 21-year-old San Francisco Bay Area waitress, according to a statement from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

On September 24, 1996, Hamilton allegedly drowned Lewis during an attempted rape and burglary of the Four Corners restaurant where she worked as a waitress. A cook at the restaurant found her body in the basement bathroom around 10:30 p.m. and called the police. She died from asphyxia due to drowning, KPIX reported.

The case went cold after investigators interviewed dozens of people, conducted several search warrants and submitted several pieces of evidence for analysis.

Last year, a DNA lab received evidence submitted by detectives that came back with a positive match that identified Hamilton as being involved in the crime, the statement said.

"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 said in a news release.

The Times-Herald reported that members of Lewis' family posted to the Contra Costa Sheriff's Facebook page on Thursday.

"On behalf of me and my family we would like to thank the homicide detectives from beginning to end and bringing justice to my little cousin Priscilla Ann Lewis," Troy Kinslow said. "She can finally rest now. I can't possibly put into enough words what this means to all of us including her friends and the community. I have a deep respect for law enforcement and all their hard work. I prayed a very long time for this day and it's finally here."

Police Tape, Crime Scene, Do Not Cross
Police said they solved the 1996 killing of Priscilla Lewis after a DNA match linked current inmate Danny Lamont Hamilton to the 25-year-old California slaying. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Hamilton is serving a life sentence at a state prison near San Diego after being convicted of sexual assault charges unrelated to Lewis' death, authorities said. It was not known whether he has a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Kinslow, a cousin of Lewis who grew up with her in the nearby town of Port Costa, said her slaying haunted him for years.

Danny Hamilton, Cold Case, Priscilla Lewis
This March 25, 2019 photo provided by Contra Costa Sheriff's Office shows Danny Lamont Hamilton, an inmate the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California. A DNA match helped detectives solve the killing of a San Francisco Bay Area waitress whose body was found in a basement bathroom 25 years ago. Authorities in Contra Costa County said on December 9, 2021, that Hamilton has been charged with murder in the killing of Priscilla Lewis. Contra Costa Sheriff's Office/AP Photo

"I was across the street, at the bar drinking and had seen her on her break," Kinslow said. "And the next morning I went to the store to get something to drink and a friend said, 'you heard about her?'"

He said he urged detectives three years ago to re-examine the case.

"They told me, 'you have been on us.' My thousands of texts and calls got them fired up," he said.

Kinslow added: "It's been a long process and it's been very tiring emotionally and physically but I never gave up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.