New Developments in a 1986 Homicide

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

On Wednesday, May 15, 1986 at 6:30 a.m., 22-year-old Roberta Leigh Walls' body was found in the field behind Old Donation Elementary School located in the 1000 block of Ferry Plantation Drive. She was found with obvious signs of trauma due to a violent assault. Roberta's body was transported to the State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy. Her death was the result of homicide.


Investigators determined Roberta had last been seen alive the night before at the Bayside Public Library located across the street from the location of Roberta's murder.

Roberta Walls1.jpg

On November 28, 2017, members of the department's Cold Case Homicide Unit released two composite sketches of a person of interest.

The Virginia Beach Police Cold Case Homicide investigators have recently sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia that specializes in DNA phenotyping: the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence. Law enforcement agencies use the company's Snapshot™ DNA Phenotyping Service (Snapshot) to narrow suspect lists and generate leads in criminal investigations.

Using DNA evidence from this investigation, Snapshot produced trait predictions for the associated person of interest (POI). Individual predictions were made for the subject's ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape. By combining these attributes of appearance, a Snapshot composite was produced depicting what the POI may have looked like at 25 years old and with an average body-mass index (BMI) of 22. These default values were used because age and BMI cannot be determined from DNA. An age progressed photo of the POI to age 55 is included in this report.


It is important to note that Snapshot composites are scientific approximations of appearance based on DNA, and are not likely to be exact replicas of appearance. Environmental factors such as smoking, drinking, diet, and other non-environmental factors — e.g., facial hair, hairstyle, scars, etc. — cannot be predicted by DNA analysis and may cause further variation between the subject's predicted and actual appearances.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to call Virginia Beach Crime Solvers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887) or by texting "VBTIP" and the information to CRIMES (274637).

Tipsters will remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.

MPO Tonya Pierce

Police Public Affairs Officer