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Berry Family Continues Search For Justice

Knoxville (WVLT) -- This Sunday, Johnia Berry would have turned 24.

But instead of celebrating, her family and friends will spend the next three days trying to flush out new leads to catch the person who's gotten away with her murder, for nearly three years.

The numbers, bring a catch to your throat: more than 900 interviews; more than 300 DNA samples; trips to nine states.

But tonight, her family wonders whether a new Knox County Sheriff along with a new investigator in charge, can bring them any closer to justice.

"I think any family members would say they're not doing enough," said Kelly Burke, Johnia's older brother.

It has been two years and eight months since Johnia Berry was stabbed and left to die in the cold breezeway of her Brendan Park apartment.

Her brother's heartbreak goes beyond frustration.

"There are no real leads," Kelly said. "I mean, we've had a few instances of hope where this looks fairly substantial and may be something."

Even though investigators say no, Burke believes the trail is all but dead.

"No, it's not a cold case," said Chief Bobby Waggoner from the Knox County Sheriff's Office. "We work on it every day."

The head of the Knox County Sheriff's Major Crimes Unit says solid leads stretch farther than the sketch of a man Johnia's roommate claimed could be their attacker.

"We have Johnia's DNA, the roommates DNA, and a third person's DNA," Chief Waggoner said, "that's as far as I'll go,"

"It shouldn't be a matter of who solves the case, it should be a matter of getting a murderer of the street, before he does it, before he murders someone else," said Joan Berry, Johnia's mother.

Joan and her husband both wonder whether politics or pride are what is keeping Sheriff's detectives from asking for and even refusing the extra eyes they believe the investigation desperately needs.

"He could be in the area," Chief Waggoner said. "He could be somewhere else, but I don't think it's time to go nationwide on TV. I don't think it'll help the investigation."

This Saturday, Johnia's family and friends will gather at Church Street United Methodist, not only to gather thoughts on her birthday, but to pass out flyers and pictures all over Knoxville.

For Johnia's parents and brother, keeping her face and case out there is the only way to make peace, with justice delayed.

"My mom made a promise the day we buried Johnia that we're going continue to fight till we find out," Kelly said. "Whatever it takes we're going do it. We're going to continue to do it.

Johnia's parents will be at the Bristol race, handing out flyers Friday and Saturday.

The reward fund has topped $70,000.

We asked Johnia's mother, and brother whether they've considered trying to tap into that to hire their own investigators.

They said they are not at that point yet.


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