DNA leads to arrest in Florida woman's 1999 cold case murder

A Florida man has been arrested in the 1999 cold case murder of a 47-year-old woman who was raped, then strangled with a T-shirt.

Deborah Dalzell was brutally battered and gagged with a sock before being sexually assaulted and strangled, according to court papers. Her body was found in her home in Sarasota, Fla., on March 29, 1999.

Investigators said the killer was an intruder who broke into the home.

On Wednesday Luke Fleming, 39, of St. Petersburg, was charged with the homicide.

Fleming lived less than a mile from Dalzell at the time of the murder, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

“As a family, we have dreamed of the day that we would get the news that they caught their killer,” Dalzell's sister Peggy Thistle, of Sarasota, said, according to the paper. “We now have a face and name for this monster.”

Friday was Dalzell's birthday.

"Happy birthday, Deborah," Thistle said.

Fleming was linked to the crime through DNA, the paper reported.

The coroner recovered semen when Dalzell’s body was autopsied.


The semen was compared to Fleming’s DNA and resulted in a match, according to the paper. Investigators obtained Fleming’s DNA through “investigative means.”

"His arrest didn't happen overnight and it wasn't easy tracking him down," Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "But thanks to DNA evidence, coupled with ancestry and genealogy, we have finally connected the dots that detectives have been working on for almost two decades."

Fleming has been jailed in lieu of $1.2 million bail.