Decades-old Fontana murder solved, police say

Fontana Police Department has declared that the case of a murder that occurred 31 years ago is closed.

John Carl Burkhardt died in Fontana, California on March 25, 1990. The 71-year-old was discovered by a friend after he didn’t show up for breakfast. Police said that Burkhardt had been repeatedly stabbed and that his home was also ransacked.

Police stated that they had investigated every lead and looked at all evidence. However, they couldn’t identify a suspect in the death. The case remained cold for over a decade.

Twelve years later, a woman contacted police and told them she was in Burkhardt’s home that fateful night and witnessed his murder. She identified Michael Vance, who was 36 at the time, as the man responsible for Burkhardt’s death.

She told police that she went with Vance to Burkhardt’s home to pick up a paycheck. She said that Vance and Burkhardt began to argue about money while they were inside. That’s when Vance grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and stabbed the elderly man several times.

Vance and the witness scoured the house after Burkhardt had died and then fled the scene.

During the initial investigation, detectives collected fingerprints and other evidence that they were unable to positively identify with ’90s-era technology. Decades later, with the advancement of modern technology, investigators were able to confirm Vance’s fingerprints on both the murder weapon and on evidence collected from inside the home.

Vance was interrogated by police, but he denied ever knowing Burkhardt or working for him. He also denied ever being in his home.

In September 2021, the case was presented to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and murder charges were filed against Vance.

Vance, who was already being held for unrelated crimes, was charged with murder and involuntary death. In April, Vance accepted a plea deal for Burkhardt’s murder and he will serve his sentence concurrently with his other past conviction.

The Fontana Police Department said the conviction of Vance brings decades of police work by detectives, cold case investigator Kathryn Clark and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to a close.

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