Authorities in Florida have identified a suspect and closed the 35-year-old cold case murder of a young mother thanks to advances in DNA technology.
On the evening of Oct. 12, 1985, Denise Stafford was alone with her child at their Sarasota home while her husband was at work. The investigation showed there was no forced entry into the residence and the 28-year-old murder victim likely died between 11 p.m. that evening and 3:10 a.m. the next morning.
Police had a person of interest in the case but were never able to name him as a suspect due to lack of evidence — until now.
Last November, investigators began recombing through evidence and had clothing the murder victim was wearing reanalyzed for DNA.
“We decided to send garments off to where an individual would have had to touch her to place her on the bed, and on those garments underneath her knees and around her ankles from her pants we got a DNA hit and that came back to Joseph Magaletti,” said the case’s lead investigator, Civilian Investigator Jeff Birdwell, at an Aug. 11 press conference.
Maglatti, detectives learned, was incarcerated in connection to a separate murder in Sarasota County when he died at 64 years old in 2015.
“Regardless of how old these cases are or regardless if the person who did it is alive, incarcerated or dead, the answer is in the books,” Birdwell noted. “If we put forth the effort and apply today's science, we have a chance to make a difference.”
The victim’s mother, Dolar Knipper, said of Magaletti and his crime: “He is gone, he is not going to harm anyone else. That has been my hue and cry from the beginning. I didn’t want to see any other mother go through what our family has.”
Knipper noted Stafford was a “loving” and “good” daughter, adding, “We just all love her and miss her.”
Detectives are currently trying to determine if Magaletti could be connected to other unsolved murders in the area.