The case went cold 35 years ago, but the Plant City Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement say they’ve finally solved the murder of Charlotte Kelley.
Kelley, 25, was killed in 1979 in her Plant City home. According to law enforcement, someone sexually assaulted and strangled her, dumping her body in a ditch behind the home.
She was discovered two days later.
The home no longer stands at 514 S. Knight St., but DNA evidence still exists on bloodstained bed sheets.
That evidence points to Nathaniel Bigbee, 63, who has been arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service, according to law enforcement. He was taken into custody while visiting family in Columbus, Miss., and charged with first-degree murder.
He awaits transfer to Florida.
Law enforcement made the announcement Tuesday with one of Kelley’s sons, Orthneil Kelley, who was only 4 years old when his mother was killed.
"I wish I could have had that person in my life," Orthneil Kelley, 39, told ABC Action News.
Orthneil Kelley is retired from the U.S. Navy after serving 20 years. He now works at MacDill Air Force Base.
After all these years, he has never given up hope that the case would be solved, he said. And he has never stopped visiting his mother's grave in Plant City.
The next time he goes, he will carry a message.
"She did it. I mean she made this happen,” he said. “She can finally rest."