Sarasota County

DNA evidence leads to arrest in 1999 Sarasota homicide

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) - After 19 years, an arrest has been made in a Sarasota cold case homicide.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday they arrested 39-year-old Luke Fleming for the 1999 murder of Deborah Dalzell.

Dalzell was found dead in her Colony Meadows Lane home on March 29, 1999. Investigators said she was brutally beaten, sexually battered and strangled.

Back in 2015, the sheriff's office reached out to a DNA technology company in Virginia to produce a predictive physical appearance from a semen sample that was collected at the crime scene. Predictive ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling and face shape were produced, which helped detectives put together a composite of what the suspect may have looked like at 25 years old.

Detectives then identified people who could have information on the case. They identified Fleming, who was 20 at the time and lived in a home on Magnolia Pond Drive that was walking distance to Dalzell's home.

A DNA sample from Fleming was obtained and compared to the suspect's DNA profile. Detectives say the comparison revealed the suspect's profile belonged to Fleming.

Fleming was arrested in Ellenton late Sunday night. He is charged with murder and sexual battery with great bodily harm. He's being held in the Sarasota County Jail on a $1.2 million bond.

“This is a very significant day for Deborah’s family, for our community and our detectives,” Sheriff Tom Knight said in a statement. “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.”

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