SANFORD, FL (WKMG/CNN) – A suspect has been arrested in the 1984 murder of a Navy recruit.
At a press conference Thursday, Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said investigators have cracked the cold case, with the help of DNA evidence.
Authorities arrested Thomas Garner, 59, in Jacksonville on Wednesday. They say he’s the man who beat and strangled 25-year-old Pamela Cahanes, a Navy recruit from Stillwater, MN.
Cahanes graduated from the Navy Training Center in Orlando two days before she was killed in 1984.
Lemma said her body was dumped outside a vacant home miles away from Sanford, FL.
"Strangulation marks around her neck. Physical damage to her face, which suggested a struggle," he said.
Lemma said Garner served in the U.S. Navy at the same time as Cahanes and later became a dental hygienist, living a relatively normal life.
Lemma said it’s not clear what led to the killing.
Garner has been charged with first-degree murder. He’s being held in the John E. Polk Correctional Facility without bail.
With help from genealogy service Parabon NanoLabs, Lemma said investigators were able to create Garner’s family tree and, eventually, guarantee he was their suspect by matching Garner to DNA found on Cahanes’ clothing.
“We can now say that we’ve put closure to this thing – this horrible, horrible tragedy,” Lemma said.