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Mountain View detective solves decades-old murder

After more than 30 years of uncertainty, the family of a murdered Milpitas man now has closure about his death th¬anks to a Mountain View Police Department detective who refused to give up on the long-cold case.

A MVPD press release published Tuesday (Feb. 9) credits Sgt. Dave Fisher with identifying Darryl O’Donnell’s killer: John Snowgrass, a Sunnyvale man who died in 2006.

Darryl O’Donnell
O’Donnell

“You can’t stop,” Fisher said. “It always feels like there is one more chance, one more opportunity, to try and solve a case.”

The press release retraces the murder and MVPD detectives’ efforts to solve the case.

O’Donnell, 27, sustained a stab wound during a fight Oct. 20, 1990. When officers arrived at the scene, a parking lot in the 400 block of Moffett Boulevard, witnesses described a scuffle between several men that eventually dispersed with all but O’Donnell fleeing in different directions.

Emergency personnel transported O’Donnell to an area hospital, but he eventually died from his injuries.

Witness descriptions of O’Donnell’s killer were vague – white, adult male in his mid-20s with brown hair and brown eyes who may have been driving a small, white hatchback – and detectives were stymied by a lack of evidence.

The breakthrough arrived in September when Fisher, recently transferred to the MVPD’s Crimes Against Persons Unit, revisited the case using DNA technology unavailable at the time of the murder. He submitted blood collected from the scene to the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory for analysis, and the lab matched it to Snowgrass.

On Jan. 27, 2021, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office’s officially identified Snowgrass as O’Donnell’s killer.

O’Donnell’s family expressed gratitude to Fisher for his diligence.

“My family, friends and I have lived the past 30 years not knowing who killed him,” said Lisa, his sister. “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. 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.”

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