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She disappeared in 1996, a former Walmart worker was just arrested for her murder

Posted at 2:53 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 12:26:14-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- An arrest has been made in the disappearance of a Chesterfield mother last seen the day after Christmas 1996. John Harvey Howard, 62, of Hanover, was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of 38-year-old Linda Evans Lunsford, according to police.

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John Harvey Howard

Howard and Lunsford were in a relationship and worked together at the Walmart just off Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield. Lunsford was last seen leaving work with Howard.

"She was reported missing by family that night," a Chesterfield Police spokesperson wrote in an email. "After years of investigating what was initially a suspicious missing person case, investigators concluded that Lunsford was deceased, though her remains have not been recovered. This case is classified as a death investigation, specifically a no-body homicide."

Lonnie Richardson recalled that night over two decades ago when his street was full of police vehicles.

"The street was swarming with police and forensics vehicles and they were coming out with bags and other things from inside the house," Richardson said.

Sources say that at one point, detectives found a female officer who looked like Lunsford and put her behind the wheel of Lunsford's car, timing it so she would pass Howard on 288 with hopes he'd lead them to her body.

“Detectives, and everyone involved with it, initially did a really good job of documenting things that they did over the course of years,” said Maj. Mike Louth. “As time progressed, we had people focus on this case and dissect every aspect which has brought us to where we are now."

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Police have not yet released what evidence tied Howard to Lunsford's disappearance.

However, Louth said that Howard has always been a person of interest in the case.

"All of the evidence and progress we've made over the last 25 years when you look at it in its totality, we believe it's the right thing to do,” said Louth. “Certainly the Commonwealth agreed as well as the grand jury, who returned a true bill indictment for his arrest. We have a solid case."

"After an investigation that spanned more than two decades, the Chesterfield County Police have amassed the necessary evidence to bring Howard to justice," a spokesperson for the Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office wrote in an email. "It is our sincere hope that today will mark the first step in bringing closure to Linda’s loving family."

Howard is scheduled to have his first court appearance on Wednesday, May 19.