Florida Man Charged With Murder From 1996 After Police Match DNA He Left On Beer Cans
Twenty-five years after Terrence Paquette was brutally stabbed to death, police have arrested and charged a man with the crime after using public DNA database websites and empty beer cans.
In an impressive showcase of diligent police work combined with modern technology and the DNA from discarded beer cans has finally resulted in an arrest in the 1996 brutal murder case of Florida convenience store manager Terrence Paquette. The body of Mr Paquette was discovered with 73 separate stab wounds in 1996 and has left authorities baffled for 25-years, until genealogy databases gave them a lead.
On Thursday the Orange County Sheriff's Office made the announcement that they had arrested Kenneth Robert Stough Jr. Sheriff John Mina reminded everyone that the "gruesome" crime scene had splattered blood "all over the store" that did not belong to Terrence Paquette, but that a DNA match remained elusive throughout the next 25-years.
It was February, 3, 1996, at approximately 7 am when a local noticed that the lights inside the Orlando Lil' Champ were off, the man found that this was unusual enough to stop his car, only to find the Clarcona Ocoee Road business locked up, the man drove off but made a phone call to the sheriff's department to inform them of his concern.
Authorities soon arrived at the store and found two men waiting outside who been attempting to collect a cash deposit from the manager. The police officers noticed blood on the outside lock and realised that Terrence Paquette's white car was parked in the parking lot outside. They attempted to call him at home but after failing to get in touch with him they contacted another employee from the store.
The employee that the authorities contacted had locked the shop up the night before and brought the police the keys so they could enter. This is when the horrifying discovery was made, the store was covered in blood and Paquette's lifeless body was found in the bathroom, having had his throat slit. It was later determined that the 31-year-old victim had been stabbed at least 73 times as well as having his throat cut.
“It was a very gruesome, violent scene,” said Detective Brian Savelli.
With a substantial amount of cash missing from the register the police quickly suggested that this appeared to be the case of a robbery gone terribly wrong. It was also apparent that a lot of the blood that was splattered around the store didn't belong to the victim and that whoever had killed him must have also been injured during the incident. Unfortunately at the time, the blood samples that they collected only confirmed they came from the same person, but not who that person was.
After the local crime lab failed to find a match, the police closed the case "pending further investigative leads" in 1997. The case was reopened again six years later when an analyst uploaded DNA from blood that was found on the store's freezer handle to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), again though this would bring them no matches.
“I was just thinking if someone was stabbed 73 times, there’s got to be additional DNA that was not the victim’s and potentially the suspect’s,” recalled Detective Savelli. “And so just with the advancements in DNA … I figured there’s gotta be something we can do.”
The foresight of Savelli led to a new cold case unit reopening the case yet again in 2019, this time, officials had the use of modern technology to aid in their investigation. In March 2021, a genetic genealogy expert they enlisted from Florida's Department of Law Enforcement uncovered some promising leads.
“We take the sample from the lab,” said Debbie Abney. “We have a vendor turn it into a data file that can be uploaded to two public genetic genealogy websites, Family Tree and GEDmatch.com.”
The samples were a distant match to one couple who had three sons. Police quickly focused their attention on Kenneth Stough Jr. due to his proximity to the store and his previous employment history. Kenneth Stough Jr was 28-years-old at the time of Terrence Paquette's brutal murder and he appeared to have just continued living his life as usual.
Detective Savelli was granted a judge-approved surveillance request and began tracking Kenneth Stough's car in August 2021. He recalled how he had watched him throw a bag full of beer cans into a dumpster in September and brought them to the Orange County Crime Scene Unit to be analysed for DNA, this time the police had a match.
“Although people think they’re forgotten about, they’re really not,” said Savelli. “Just because there’s not an arrest made in a year or two, three, four, five years, the case is still open. We are doing everything we can to get every cold case out there solved.”
Stough was arrested last Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. He is currently being held without bond. He had admitted to previously working at the store but has not yet confessed to the robbery or murder. “We never, ever forget about these cases,” said Mina. “Just because we don’t make an arrest in a case in a day or in a few weeks or even a few months doesn’t mean we give up on our victims or their families.”
This is an on-going story and we will update you when we find out further details.
Now you have read about the murder of Terrence Paquette, make sure you read about the three Manchester teenagers who brutally murdered Scott Anderton.