California Inmate Charged in Cold Case Murder of 21-Year-Old Waitress, Authorities Say

Priscilla Lewis
Priscilla Lewis.Handout

Danny Lamont Hamilton, who is serving a 295-year sentence on an unrelated sexual assault conviction, was charged Thursday in the 25-year-old case, authorities said.

A California inmate has been charged with the cold case murder of a waitress whose brutal killing terrified a small Bay Area town in 1996, authorities said.

Murder charges were filed Thursday against Danny Lamont Hamilton, 51, alleging he drowned 21-year-old Priscilla Lewis during an attempted rape and burglary at the Four Corners restaurant in Crockett, according to a statement from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

Hamilton is already serving a 295-year sentence at a state prison near San Diego after being convicted of sexual assault charges unrelated to Lewis' death, authorities said.

The new charges against Hamilton are murder with four special enhancements — murder by lying in wait, felony murder kidnapping, felony murder burglary and felony murder during an attempted rape, the sheriff's office said.

"I would like to recognize the many sheriff's office homicide detectives and crime lab staff for their dedication and relentless work in the murder of Priscilla Lewis in 1996," said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston.

Last year, investigators submitted additional evidence for enhanced DNA testing, which provided a match that linked Hamilton to the case, Livingston said. Deputies conducted multiple interviews in the case and conducted multiple evidence tests, but the case remain unsolved for 25 years, officials said.

Lewis' body was found in the restaurant's bathroom by a co-worker who went looking for her when she failed to return from a break, investigators said. An autopsy determined she died from asphyxiation caused by drowning.

Her killing stunned the small community some 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. Lewis' cousin, Troy Kinslow, grew up with her and said her death haunted him for years.

"I was across the street, at the bar drinking and had seen her on her break," Kinslow told CBS News Thursday. "And the next morning I went to the store to get something to drink and a friend said, 'you heard about her?'"

Kinslow said he never stopped asking about the investigation. "It's been a long process and it's been very tiring emotionally and physically, but I never gave up," he said.

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