In December of 2004, someone entered the apartment of Johnia Berry, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, and brutally stabbed her to death. Berry’s roommate, Jason Amiyami, escaped and alerted the police. The sheriff’s department interviewed more than 1,000 people and submitted over 400 DNA samples, but the case went unsolved for almost three years. In 2007, a blood sample found in Berry’s apartment was matched to a man who had been convicted of an unrelated crime. Taylor Lee Olson, whose face also matched the composite sketch drawn from Amiyami’s description, was charged in a seven-count indictment, including murder and aggravated burglary. Before a trial could take place, he committed suicide. In 2007, Johnia’s parents, Joan and Mike Berry, pushed for the passage of the Johnia Berry Act, which requires anyone arrested for a violent crime to give a DNA sample. They also participate in a variety of other efforts in Johnia’s memory, including a scholarship fund and annual toy drive.
A message from Johnia’s family
“In the very early morning hours on December 6, 2004, Taylor Lee Olson entered my daughter’s apartment. He was looking to steal. When he didn’t find what he wanted he went into Johnia’s bedroom where she was sleeping, and there he took her life. He didn’t even know my daughter, but he stole her life! Police called it OVER KILL! There was DNA left in Johnia’s apartment, but no match for it in the database. Three long years we waited for answers, praying for justice! There are no words to express the pain my family and I have endured. Each day is a struggle, I miss Johnia so very much! I will be sad until the day I die!
You never know if a tragedy like this could happen to a member of your family. I must say, I never did. Especially, not at 4 AM. When your child is sleeping, you think she is SAFE! I ask you to please think about this. And ask yourself, shouldn’t we as parents do everything in our power to protect our love ones? Please encourage your State Legislators to do their job – DNA Laws are needed!”
Johnia’s mom – Joan Berry