SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A judge on Thursday denied bond for a man who is the suspect in the cold case murder of a 25-year-old Navy recruit.
Thomas Garner, 59, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida earlier this month for the 1984 slaying of Pamela Cahanes.
Deputies said Garner was living in a 600-square-foot apartment, working as a dental hygienist in Jacksonville and maintaining a normal life at the time of his arrest.
Garner and Cahanes were classmates at the Orlando Naval Training Center, according to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.
“Quite literally, he was probably under the belief that he's getting away with murder,” Lemma said during a news conference following Garner's arrest.
Lemma said Garner killed Cahanes two days after she graduated from basic training. Investigators said a passerby found her body next to an empty house in Sanford on August 5, 1984. Detectives determined that Cahanes had been beaten and strangled.
"In the affidavit, there are some witnesses that describe her with actually another man, and then at a liquor store, but there's no witnesses that ever see her with a black male," said Garner's attorney, Jared Shapiro.
The Sheriff's Office said that through genetic genealogy research, they were able to develop "a DNA family tree that eventually matched the suspect to DNA found on the victim," collected from Cahanes’ fingernails and underwear.
Then, the same genealogy software used to catch the "Golden State Killer" in California worked for investigators in Florida.
"You have DNA evidence, but you have absolutely no other evidence really, at that point," Shapiro said following Garner's bond hearing.
Both the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement provided crucial assistance in this process.
Garner is charged with first-degree murder.