Murderer gets another life term in 1981 cold case

Florida Department of Corrections photo of William Browning
Florida Department of Corrections photo of William Browning

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A 56-year-old man already serving a life sentence for a Jacksonville murder was sentenced to another life sentence for a murder in Ponte Vedra in 1981.

William Browning pleaded no contest Friday in the killing of Ralph Whittemore in December 1981.

Under Florida law, Browning had to be sentenced under the homicide statute in effect in 1981, when the murder was committed, which provided for a life sentence but required the possibility of parole after 25 years.

"This case demonstrates why we should never abandon our efforts to solve cold cases, no matter how old," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.

For 31 years, Whittemore's case sat cold. The mystery was solved last year when it was determined possible DNA evidence could potentially be evaluated and tested.

After Whittemore was bludgeoned to death, the killer went through the victim's pants pockets. DNA testing of the pockets resulted in a match to Browning's DNA.