NewsSarasota, Manatee County


DNA technology being used to prosecute suspect in 1999 cold case killing of Deborah Dalzell

Posted at 5:12 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 17:26:44-05

SARASOTA, Fla. -- It is a first-of-its-kind case in the Tampa Bay area, using evidence from genealogy databases to match DNA to a murder suspect.

On March 29, 1999, Deborah Dalzell didn’t show up for work.

On Tuesday, Dalzell's former coworker Joel Seimer testified that he went to check on Dalzell at her Sarasota home. He says what he saw through the window frightened him.

"I called her boss and said, 'Mike, there’s something terribly wrong here. You need to get out here.' Then I hung up and called 911," said Seimer.

Inside, deputies found Dalzell brutally beaten, sexually battered and murdered. The killer cut out a pool screen to get in.

But there were no suspects and the case went cold. Until 2018, when detectives resubmitted DNA to a lab that used a genealogy database to narrow a match down to Luke Fleming.

On Tuesday, prosecutors gave opening statements. They argue that DNA found on Dalzell's body, was Fleming’s.

“The sperm identified as coming from the right inner thigh, exactly matches the defendant's DNA profile, and the odds of someone selected at random matching that profile are 1 in 6 sextillions,” said Art Jackman, the assistant state attorney.

After the prosecution's opening statement, they called witnesses to the stand, including Dalzell's sister, a co-worker and several investigators who worked the case.

The defense declined to give an opening statement, saying they would rather wait until they present their case.

The state is not seeking the death penalty.

The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the week.