DNA on Beer Cans Helps Solve 25-Year-Old Murder

Kenneth Stough Jr. is accused of killing a convenience store manager in Orlando in 1996
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2021 9:50 AM CST
He Was Stabbed 73 Times. It Took 25 Years for an Arrest
Kenneth Robert Stough Jr.   (Orange County Sheriff's Office, Florida)

A discarded Budweiser beer can has led authorities to a man accused of stabbing a convenience store manager 73 times in 1996. Terrence Paquette, 31, was preparing to open the Lil' Champ Food Store in Orlando, Fla., before 6am on Feb. 3, 1996, when he was gruesomely attacked, per KIRO. Sheriff's deputies, sent to the store after 7am when a passerby noticed the lights weren't on, saw blood on the door lock before a passing store employee provided a key. Paquette was covered in blood on the bathroom floor. He'd been stabbed 73 times in the head, neck, heart, lungs, and limbs, and "his throat was actually slit," says Orange County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Savelli.

Blood on the door key cylinder and push bar, a lottery machine, and the handle of a beverage freezer was found to belong to a man other than Paquette. That man had presumably cut himself before stealing $1,000 from the store safe and locking up with Paquette's keys, which were never found. But the case grew cold, until genetic genealogy provided a break in 2019. Private genome-sequencing lab Othram then used a sample of blood taken from the freezer to build a genealogical profile, which pointed detectives to three brothers. One of them, 54-year-old Kenneth Robert Stough Jr., had worked at Lil' Champ and lived less than a mile away in 1996, according to an arrest affidavit.

Stough was under surveillance in September when Savelli saw him put a trash bag into a public dumpster. Inside were several beer cans, which were swabbed for DNA. Sheriff John Mina says there was a match. He adds it's the first time Orange County detectives have used genetic genealogy to solve a cold case. "This case illustrates perfectly why we created a cold case homicide unit in 2019," he tells the Orlando Sentinel. Stough, of Eustis, arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon, is beng held without bail at the Orange County Jail. Though Paquette's relatives have died since the murder, authorities were able to notify friends, who were "ecstatic," per the Sentinel. (More cold cases stories.)

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