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Forensic Magazine August 16, 2021: 1985 Homicide Solved After Evidence Reanalysis

The Sarasota Police Department has solved a 35-year-old homicide because of improvements in DNA testing and technology. Recent advancements in technology allowed investigators to re-examine forensic evidence from the case that was once thought to be unsolvable.

Denise Marie Stafford, who was 28 years old at the time of her death, was found deceased on October 13, 1985. Sarasota Police detectives at the time believed Denise was home with her child when Denise was killed.

In March 2020, civilian investigator Jeff Birdwell, who is assigned to the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, began to look at old evidence to see what could be re-tested using advancements in DNA technology. Evidence found near Denise at the time of her death, including the pants she was wearing, were sent to multiple agencies including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and DNA Labs International, for forensic re-testing. 

In July 2021, FDLE contacted Civilian Investigator Birdwell about a DNA match found on Denise’s pants. The DNA belonged to Joseph Magaletti. Magaletti, who died in prison in 2015, was a person of interest in the case in 1985 but was never developed as a suspect. more

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