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Sheriff: DNA leads to Jacksonville man's arrest in killing of Navy recruit

1984 cold case solved through genealogy, Seminole County sheriff says

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SANFORD, Fla. – Investigators used DNA to track down and arrest a Jacksonville man in the three-decade-old slaying of a Navy recruit, the Seminole County sheriff announced at a news conference Thursday.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said Thomas Garner, 59, was arrested at his home in Jacksonville for the 1984 slaying of Navy Airman Apprentice Pamela Cahanes.

The sheriff said the two were classmates at the Orlando Naval Training Center.

Cahanes, of Stillwater, Minnesota, was 25 when she found beaten and strangled in Sanford, a city near Orlando, in August 1984, according to News4Jax sister station WKMG-TV in Orlando.

Lemma said detectives used genetic genealogical research to develop a DNA family tree that led to Garner, who was arrested Wednesday.

Garner is charged with first-degree murder. He is being held without bond in the John E. Polk Correction Facility, online jail records show.

WKMG reports Lemma said two of his detectives flew to Minnesota to be with Cahanes' family for the announcement.

“Our hearts go out to Pamela Cahanes’ family members, who have been steadfast in their search for justice,” Lemma said. “Thanks to decades of persistence from our Major Crimes Unit, and partners from NCIS and FDLE, we have taken a giant step forward.”

About the Authors:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4Jax in March 2016.