Twenty years after slaying, suspect arrested

Thursday, August 26th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS GATOS, Calif. (AP) -- A man whose fingerprints link him to
the 20-year-old abduction and slaying of Los Gatos socialite Gloria
Acronico is in custody today after police pulled him from a bus
bound for Oklahoma.

Troy Lee Johnson, 53, was arrested Wednesday in Needles, a town
in the Southern California desert near the Arizona state line,
after officers learned a friend of Johnson's had purchased him a
bus ticket.

"I just wish we had gotten him 20 years ago," said John
Moilan, chief of police in Piedmont, where Acronico's body was

The case had been gathering dust until two weeks ago, when a tip
came in about a possible suspect. It didn't pan out, but it got
detectives interested.

They decided to once again run unidentified prints from the
crime scene. The state Department of Justice's fingerprint
computer, stuffed with more than 7.5 million prints, produced a

The hunt was on for Johnson.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday issued a
no-bail warrant for Johnson, charging him with robbery, kidnap and

"Pretty amazing after all these years," said sheriff's Sgt.
Luther Pugh, a rookie back on Dec. 7, 1979, the day Acronico

"You could only speculate as to why it didn't occur before and
why it occurred now," said Sgt. Earl Pennington, referring to why
police only now found a print match. "We don't know why the
computer system never matched those prints in all these years."

State officials say there have been 70,000 matches since the
database opened for business in 1985.

Earlier this month, the FBI announced a new 34 million-print
database that reduced the time it takes to match prints from weeks
to less than two hours.

Acronico, a 49-year-old mother of two and wife of the owner of
the Diana Fruit Co., was leaving a tennis club when she was
accosted by a man who forced his way into her car.

Officers think she was forced to drive around for several hours,
stopping at two banks to withdraw cash.

Two days later, her body was found in the trunk of her car. She
had been killed by a single bullet fired into her temple at close
range. The slaying set off an intense investigation which
eventually led to more than 170 suspects, but no arrests.

Johnson had a record of arrests for theft and robbery before the
1979 slaying, but spent little time in custody afterwards, except
for 16 months for a 1982 forgery conviction.

He had been living in Chicago and was actually in the San
Francisco Bay area over the weekend. He fled when he learned he was
being sought, according to investigators.

The last time the Acronico case prints were checked was three
years ago. They were run several other times over the years, but
never produced a match, Pennington said.

This time, however, the computer turned up Johnson. At that
point, officers noticed Johnson's picture resembled sketches made
at the time of the kidnapping, based on witness descriptions.

Police said Acronico's husband, Eugene, and the couple's two
children were told of the match Sunday.

"They felt shocked, relieved, surprised, angry," said
Pennington, "anything you would expect."