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California man arrested in Indiana man's 2002 killing

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 8:19 am

INDIANAPOLIS — A California man has been arrested in an Indianapolis man's 2002 bludgeoning death after police spent years building their case by tracking DNA evidence and re-interviewing witnesses.

Robin Johnson, 53, surrendered to Indianapolis police Dec. 16 in the killing of 22-year-old James Tilman Buntin III. He's being held without bail at the Marion County Jail on murder and other charges.

Johnson was arrested after Buntin was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in his apartment in June 2002, but police released him due to a lack of evidence.

Two years ago, a detective resubmitted evidence collected from the murder scene. DNA found in Buntin's apartment proved to be a preliminary match to Johnson's DNA, which was in a national database, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Sgt. Dave Ellison, who heads the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Cold Case Unit, said detectives then obtained a search warrant and traveled to California to get a new DNA sample from Johnson needed for criminal charges.

Investigators then tracked down witnesses from the time of the slaying to determine if their recollections matched statements they had made more than a decade ago.

Once the elements of the case were in place, an arrest warrant was issued for Johnson on Dec. 13.

Investigators thought they'd have to go to California to arrest Johnson. But he was in Indianapolis visiting his mother and he surrendered after she told him police were searching for him.

Buntin's father, James Buntin Sr., is hoping for justice for his late son.

"That was a nice New Year's present to arrest that guy," he said. "Now let's see if they keep him this time."