DNA leads to arrest in 2001 cold case murder of University of Florida student

Investigators in Florida have come closer to solving a 17-year-old murder after a DNA sample run in an genealogy database identified distant relatives of the suspect.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that police made an arrest on Friday in the 2001 murder of 25-year-old Christine Framke, a University of Florida student found dead in her apartment after finishing an early morning shift at Cigarz bar at Universal CityWalk in Orlando. According to the report, her girlfriend asked a neighbor to check on Christine when she couldn’t reach her by phone. The neighbor found the woman dead with a gunshot wound to her head.

Detectives reportedly found semen on her body, though a medical examination determined that Framke was not raped. With no apparent motive for the killing outside of cash the victim believed to have earned during her shift at the bar, investigators were unable to find a match for the DNA collected at the scene, and ultimately declared the case cold.

Orlando Police Detective Michael Fields told the Orlando Sentinel that investigators found a long-awaited break in the case after Parabon Nanolabs, a company that offers DNA phenotyping, ran the DNA sample through an open-source genealogy database and found matches believed to be cousins of Framke’s killer.

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Investigators used the information to compile a list of relatives and identified Benjamin L. Holmes, 38, who had a long criminal record, as the likeliest suspect. Police then obtained a warrant for his DNA, as none of his prior arrests required obtaining a DNA sample, and found that Holmes’s DNA was a match for the sample collected from the murder scene. He was arrested on Friday on a first-degree murder charge.

Fields told the newspaper that Holmes denied he is the killer and said detectives have not established a personal connection between the suspect and the victim.

Christine’s mother Tina Franke expressed surprise and relief that police had made an arrest.

“I honestly thought that he was dead after 17 years, and that we would never find out,” she told the Orlando Sentinel. “This is such a blessing for our family.”

Holmes is in custody at the Orange County Jail, behind held without bail.

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