Suspect arrested in Sumter County murder mystery

Deputies say woman killed by friend for money

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - It's been nine months since Dale Sturtz's sister was found murdered in a wooded area just off I-75 and SR 44 in Wildwood.

"Even with a pace maker my heart skipped a beat," said Sturtz during a press conference at the Sumter County Sheriff's Office Wednesday morning.

The news that his sister's alleged killer, Ralph Harold Penrod, 62, was behind bars brought tears to his eyes.  Knowing the person who may have fatally shot his sister would finally be brought to justice.

"It amazes me what people will do to people.  What they are capable of doing for a little bit of money," said Sturtz.

Martha Wever, 56, had been known as "Jane Doe" since the investigation began.  On April 22, 2013 her remains were found by two young men looking for a wallet in a wooded area behind a restaurant.  It's known as a popular spot for thrill seekers to ride ATV's off road.

Sumter County deputies say at this time, the motive appears to be money.  Records show Penrod had been collecting Wever's monthly pension check.  

According to investigators, the two weren't romantically involved, but rather friends since high school and living together in Kentucky at the time of the murder.

While investigators wouldn't go into too much detail, as this is still a very active case, they say several clues pointed to Penrod, including the collection of those checks.

Also helping in the investigation, modern technology.  USF anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle was asked on the case after the body was found.  She says using three-dimensional scans of the skull and a lot of help from technology, her lab was able to photoshop a composite sketch of what then "Jane Doe" would have looked like.  That sketch made it's rounds across the country, until authorities in Kentucky realized that sketch just might be the missing person they had been searching for for months.

Sure enough, it was Wever.  Exactly nine  months to the day, the woman who was known for so long as Jane Doe, now has a name and a family who is ready to start healing.

"We're happy this part is done, but it's a long way from being over," said Sturtz.
 

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