Florida police utilize advances in DNA testing to solve 1985 murder
The Sarasota Police Department recently cracked a 35-year-old murder cold case with the help of scientific advancements in DNA testing.
Using new technology, police were able to link DNA from the murder of Denise Marie Stafford, 28, to convicted killer Joseph Magaletti.
Magaletti had been convicted of a different murder in 1999 and died in prison in 2015.
Investigator Jeff Birdwell, who works with the Sarasota Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, cited author Michael Connelly in a press conference to describe the importance of solving cold cases.
“Everyone matters, or no one matters,” he quoted. “Truly, that’s the motto for us, is that regardless of how old these cases are, or regardless if the person who did it is alive, incarcerated or dead, the answers are in the books, and if we put forth the effort and apply today’s science, we’ve got a chance to make a difference.”
In 2020, Birdwell dug up the cold case and applied cutting-edge science in DNA forensics technology to bring the truth to light. He went through the physical evidence to find items that might benefit from being retested using technology that wasn’t available when the case was first investigated. The original report suggested that Stafford was attacked while standing and then intentionally placed lying down on her bed, so he tested the clothing she had been wearing.
According to Fox News, he sent multiple pieces of evidence to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and got a genetic match to Magaletti from DNA on Stafford’s pants. Magaletti was initially a person of interest in the investigation but was never named a suspect. Now, Birdwell believes he may also be tied to another cold case in the area.
“This is years of work by not only myself but sworn detectives and fellow civilians at the Sarasota Police Department who have a passion to close these cases,” Birdwell said. “Thanks to science and advancements in DNA testing and technology, all cold cases have a chance. We’re not giving up on any case and this case being solved, 35 years later, is a testament to that.”
Stafford’s mother, Dorla Knipper, thanked the Sarasota Police Department for bringing their family some closure.
“He’s not going to harm anyone else. From the beginning, I didn’t want to see any other mother go through what our family has. The police department has done a fabulous job.”