Fontana police solve 32-year cold-case murder

In March 1990, John Carl Burkhardt from Fontana missed a breakfast date with a friend. When the friend went to his home on Mango Avenue, the 71-year-old was found stabbed to death and his home ransacked. Police searched for his killer, but all their leads went cold.

For more than 30 years, the case went unsolved.

On Monday, the Fontana Police Department announced that Burkhardt’s killer had been found and was already serving a prison sentence for an unrelated charge.

Investigators got a break in the case when a witness confessed in 2003 to being in Burkhardt’s home the day he was killed, according to police. The unidentified witness told police that on March 25, 1990, she and Michael Joseph Vance went to Burkhardt’s home to pick up money. Burkhardt invited Vance and the witness into his home, but an argument broke out over the amount of money owed to Vance. During the argument, Vance went into Burkhardt’s kitchen, grabbed a steak knife and repeatedly stabbed him.

Vance and the unnamed witness then ransacked Burkhardt’s home and took several items before they left, according to authorities.

During the initial investigation, police took evidence from the crime scene, including fingerprints from the knife and in Burkhardt’s home. Over the years, forensic technology advanced and investigators matched the evidence to Vance’s fingerprints, police said.

Vance denied knowing Burkhardt, but in September 2021 the case was presented to the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office. While investigators sought to charge Vance with Burkhardt’s murder, in April 2022 Vance pleaded to a voluntary manslaughter charge, according to authorities. Vance was already serving a prison sentence for an unrelated crime and will serve his prison time concurrently with his remaining time.

The Fontana Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

According to prison records, Vance, 56, is serving his prison term in Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, Calif. He will be eligible for parole in February 2033.

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