A 59-year-old Florida man was arrested Wednesday morning in the 1984 beating and strangling of a 25-year-old Orlando Navy recruit, Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said Thursday during a news conference.
Thomas Lewis Garner, of Jacksonville, killed Pamela Cahanes, one of his classmates at the Orlando Naval Training Center, Lemma said.
Garner was arrested at his home and taken to the John E. Polk Correctional Facility, where he was booked Wednesday afternoon on charges of first-degree murder. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court Friday.
Cahanes’ body was discovered Aug. 5, 1984, outside an abandoned home in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, investigators said.
#Breaking: @SeminoleSO says DNA evidence pointed investigators to a suspect. Sheriff says DNA of Thomas Lewis Garner of Jacksonville matched DNA found on underwear of Pamela Cahanes. He was arrested on First degree murder and being held in jail on no bond.#WFTV pic.twitter.com/G4FfKydnaI— Jeff Levkulich (@jlevkulichWFTV) March 14, 2019
Detectives used genealogy research to develop a DNA family tree that matched Garner to DNA discovered on Cahanes' body.
Lemma said Garner's DNA was discovered beneath Cahanes' fingernails, because she fought and struggled to pull his hands off her neck.
"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 (the Naval Criminal Investigative Service) and (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), we have taken a giant step forward."
Garner, a dental hygienist with a previously clean record, has not been cooperative with detectives, Lemma said.
"The amount of years that this family has had to wait for justice -- it is extremely sad," Lemma said.