ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Police Department’s Cold Case Unit is celebrating a major milestone, solving their first two cold case murders. The unit was started in March 2021.
"The early part of a cold case unit entails organizing hundreds of boxes that contain case files in each box," Lt. Frank Chisari said. "So the first thing you do you sit down with these boxes. You go through them organize them and start looking at the cases you think you can start to chip away at with new technology or new leads that we may have come up through with other cases that are similar to other cases we’re working on in the cold case unit."
The OPD has more than 250 cold cases. The Cold Case Unit has looked at 38 cases in the last year, while doing so they discovered similar murders that were part of a 1987 violent crime spree that involved 16 brutal armed robberies.
The suspect was described at the time as a young black male who wore red sneakers. All of his victims were white males, most of them older, many of them homeless, OPD says.
Investigators say his M.O.: he’d either attack these men while they were sleeping or sneak up on them from behind while they were walking in downtown Orlando. All of his victims were beaten over the head with a piece of steel rebar.
Police say he’d rob his victims of the few dollars they had and their wristwatches. Charlie Hall was convicted of 2 of the armed robberies in 1988 and was listed as a possible suspect in the two murders.
Investigators say there was lots of DNA and evidence collected by the detectives working the cases in 1987. "In 2009 there were some partial profiles found. Not enough to match against anyone suspect. Now in 2022, fast-forward, we have that capability. We have that technology," Cold Case Unit Homicide Detective Michael Fields said.
Detective Fields and his partner and a volunteer spent nearly 100 hours connecting more dots and got a warrant in January to get a buccal swab to collect DNA from Charlie Hall. When they went to Hall’s home to show him the warrant, and the evidence, they say Hall confessed, and they never even needed to get his DNA.
"I said what do you think the percentage of your DNA coming back on the murder weapon? He said 80 percent sure. I said, what’s the other 20-percent? He said me not wanting to deal with this. He was very remorseful. He cried a number of times," Detective Fields said.
Hall is now charged with both murders. While detectives were unable to track down any family members of the victims, Louie Halloway and Lawrence Stewart, they were able to get a hold of the original detectives who investigated the cases. Lt. Frank Chisari says one of the retired detectives was in tears hearing the news.
"So I know after speaking to him that this case was hung over his head, he thought about it that he wasn’t able to get justice. The time and effort, it stayed with him," Lt. Chisari said.
He has a message for anyone who thinks they’ve gotten away with murder. "If you’re hiding. If you’re living a normal life, you got this hanging over your head. We’re going to come get you we’re going to investigate these crimes you committed, and we’re going to get you," Lt. Chisari said.