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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Monday, August 15, 2016

District Man Sentenced to 20 Years to Life in Prison For 1997 Murder of Woman in Northwest Washington

DNA Linked Defendant to Crime

            WASHINGTON – John F. General, 52, formerly of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 20 years to life in prison for the 1997 murder of a woman at an apartment building in Northwest Washington, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            General was found guilty by a jury in December 2014, following a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, of second-degree murder. He was sentenced by the Honorable Lynn Leibovitz.

            According to the government’s evidence, on the morning of Nov. 26, 1997, the partially clothed body of the victim, Deborah McKinney, was discovered in a stairwell of an apartment building in the 900 block of M Street NW. The District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Ms. McKinney, 38, was killed by means of asphyxiation.

            Although there were no eyewitnesses to this murder, the government’s evidence showed that Ms. McKinney encountered the defendant and that a violent encounter ensued. Based on the evidence, General pressed his hand or other body part over Ms. McKinney’s mouth and applied life-taking pressure to her mouth, chest and neck. During this assault, she fought to save her life. In doing so, she injured General, causing him to bleed on her shirt. However, she was no match for the defendant, and he killed her by cutting off the air she needed to live.

            General was identified as a suspect in January 2010 through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a web of state and national databases containing DNA profiles from convicted offenders and crime scenes that is used as an investigative tool. General’s DNA was in the system as a result of an earlier conviction in a case in the District of Columbia. DNA testing confirmed that his blood and semen were on the scene of Ms. McKinney’s attack.     He was arrested in May of 2010.

            “This cold case was revived when a DNA hit connected John General to the long-ago murder,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “This prosecution shows the power of DNA and other forensic evidence to secure justice even after many years have passed.”

            “It is our hope that this sentencing brings some sort of closure to the victim's family and friends after so many years,” said Chief Lanier.

            In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Chief Lanier commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the District of Columbia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Services. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Haines; Michael Ambrosino, Special Counsel for DNA and Forensic Evidence Litigation; Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling; Paralegal Specialists Sandra Lane, Mia Beamon, Jason Manuel and Benjamin Kagan-Guthrie, and Victim/Witness Security Specialists David Foster and Katina Adams.

            Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sharon Donovan and Adrienne Dedjinou, who prosecuted the case.

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
Updated August 15, 2016