SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest in the 1999 murder of Deborah Dalzell.
On March 29, 1999, deputies were dispatched to Dalzell's Sarasota home on Colony Meadows Lane after co-workers became concerned when she did not show up for work. When they arrived, deputies found Dalzell deceased inside her home from an apparent sexual battery and subsequent homicide.
Detectives say Dalzell was brutally beaten, sexually battered and strangled.
The Medical Examiner’s Office found semen evidence left by the suspect during the sexual battery.
After years of investigating and advances in DNA testing, deputies arrested 39-year-old Luke Fleming for her murder.
A DNA technology company in Virginia called Parabon NanoLabs used the semen collected from the scene to make a prediction for the suspect’s ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape.
By combining these attributes of appearance, a Snapshot composite was produced depicting what the suspect may have looked like at 25 years old.
Detectives used this information to identify Fleming who lived within walking distance to Deborah’s home at the time of her death.
After matching Fleming's DNA, he was arrested in Ellenton on Sunday.
“This is a very significant day for Deborah’s family, for our community and our detectives,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “I can’t imagine what it feels like to spend nearly twenty years with unanswered questions related to such a heinous crime. My thoughts are with Deborah’s family as I hope this resolution will eventually bring them the closure they need and deserve.”
He is charged with charged with Murder and Sexual Battery with Great Bodily Harm and is being held on a $1.2 million bond.
"There have been nineteen years of weddings, graduations, and new babies that Deborah has missed, we miss Deborah every day," said Dalzell's sister Peggy Thisle.