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Sarasota police solve 1985 murder using new DNA technology

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SARASOTA, Fla- — Sarasota police have solved a 35-year-old murder case with modern DNA testing and technology.

The department announced in a press conference that recent advancements in technology allowed investigators to re-examine forensic evidence from the case that was once thought to be unsolvable.

Denise Marie Stafford was 28-years-old at the time of her death. She was found dead on October 13, 1985, in Sarasota. Sarasota officials say detectives at the time believed Denise was home with her child when she was killed.

In March 2020, Civilian Investigator Jeff Birdwell, who works in the criminal investigations division, looked at old evidence to see what could be re-tested using advancements in DNA technology. Evidence found near Denise at the time of her death, including the pants she was wearing, were sent to multiple agencies for forensic re-testing.

In July of 2021, a DNA match was found on Denise’s pants. The DNA was confirmed to belong to Joseph Magaletti, 64.

Magaletti died in prison in 2015 and was a person of interest in the case in 1985 but was never developed as a suspect.

“It takes a village to solve these cases,” said Civilian Investigator Birdwell.

“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. 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. The improvement in DNA technology brings new life to old cases,” said Birdwell.

Watch the full news conference below:

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