A Florida man has been arrested in connection with the bloody murder of a grocery store manager who was stabbed 73 times in 1996 after DNA from a discarded beer can connects him to the cold case, investigators said Thursday.
Kenneth Stough Jr., 54, was remanded in custody in Lake County on Tuesday more than 25 years after the murder of 31-year-old Terence Paquette, Sheriff John Mina of Orange County. told reporters at a news conference.
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Paquette was found dead on the morning of February 3, 1996, inside the bathroom of the Lil ‘Champ grocery store in northwest Orange County. Mina described the scene as “very gruesome.”
Paquette had been stabbed 73 times and had her throat cut. Blood puddles stained the floor and walls in photos shown by the sheriff’s office. The cash deposit from the store was also missing.
While homicide detectives working at the scene in 1996 had discovered the blood of an unknown person inside the store, Mina said there was no way at that time to make an arrest based on blood evidence without comparing it to another blood test, and the case went cold.
In 2003, the blood test was entered into a database, but no match was found. The case remained cold until the sheriff’s cold case unit reopened the investigation in 2019.
Using a drop of the unknown person’s blood that was extracted from the handle of a freezer, forensic genealogists with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2021 determined that the blood came from one of three brothers.
Detectives focused on Stough, who they said had been working in the grocery store for some time before Paquette. Detectives also said Stough lived in an apartment across the street from Paquette in 1996 and often visited the store.
Detective Brian Savelli monitored Stough and accompanied him to a gas station in Lake County, where he saw Stough throw several cans of beer away in a container. Savelli found the cans and got them swabbed for DNA. Investigators found that the DNA on the cans matched the DNA found at the crime scene.
Stough was charged with first-degree murder with a weapon. Savelli said detectives were still working to determine a motive.
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While none of Paquette’s family lived to receive news of the arrest, detectives informed his friends about the breakthrough in the 25-year-old case.
“I think it’s important to remind our public again, to remind our survivors and the families of all our victims out there that we will never, ever forget these cases,” Minas said.
Since the Orange County Sheriff’s cold case unit was first formed in 2019, the unit has solved eight murders dating back to 1984, Minas said.
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