Dental hygienist recently convicted of 1984 slaying in Florida now accused of cold-case Hawaii killing

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Source: Seminole County Sheriff's Office; MEGA

Jun. 21 2021, Published 3:24 p.m. ET

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A dental hygienist recently found guilty of a decades-old murder in Florida is now accused of killing a Georgia woman visiting Hawaii in the early 1980s.

Despite investigators’ best efforts, there was never an arrest in the case and it eventually went cold.

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On September 18, 1982, Kathy Hicks, a Delta Air Lines reservation clerk, was in Honululu to play at a company softball tournament in Kapiolani Park. That night, colleagues later recalled, she was spotted with another man in an elevator at her hotel. The pair were heading to the pool area, and Hicks was last seen alive around 1:30 a.m.

Two joggers discovered the 25-year-old woman’s body near a ravine the next morning. She had been beaten and strangled.

“The initial investigation by HPD homicide detectives was extensive but did not result in viable leads,” police said at the time, according to Star Advertiser.

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Nearly 40 years later, police finally caught a break in the case when a partial DNA profile allegedly tied Thomas Garner, 61, to evidence collected at the crime scene, Honolulu’s KHON-TV reported.

“DNA is extremely helpful because we can rely on the science,” prosecuting attorney Megan Kau told the television station. “So now, we can identify the perpetrator, we can prosecute the perpetrator and hopefully convict the perpetrator.”

At the time of Hicks’ murder, Garner was allegedly in the Pacific islands, where he was stationed with the Navy between April 1980 and October 1982.

This is the second time Garner's name has come up in a cold case investigation, police said. In May, he was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Pamela Canahes, a U.S. Navy recruit he beat, strangled to death and then dumped in a Seminole County, Florida, lot in August 1984, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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Investigators tested traces of semen recently recovered from Canahes underwear to extract a DNA profile and then used genetic genealogy to pinpoint Garner as the victim’s killer. He was arrested in March 2019 in connection with the case.

“Pamela Cahanes enlisted in the Navy to fight for her county. Instead, she had to fight Thomas Garner for more than [eight] minutes, only to lose her life.” Assistant State Attorney Anna Valentini said in a statement. “We’re grateful we were able to win this fight for Pamela and her family. I hope they can rest easier knowing that tomorrow, and every day after, Thomas Garner is going to wake up in a jail cell knowing exactly why he’s there.”

Garner is awaiting extradition to Hawaii to stand trial for Hicks' murder. He is being held on $2 million bail.

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