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Bond denied for suspect in 1984 slaying of Navy recruit Pamela Cahanes

Thomas Lewis Garner, left, has been arrested in connection with the 1984 death of Pamela Cahanes.

By MICHAEL WILLIAMS | The Orlando Sentinel | Published: July 13, 2019

ORLANDO (Tribune News Service) — A judge on Friday denied a bond request from Thomas Garner, the man recently accused of the 1984 slaying of Navy recruit Pamela Cahanes.

Garner, 59, was arrested in March, 34 years after the body of 25-year-old Cahanes was found in an overgrown Seminole County lot on Aug. 5, 1984.

Investigators said they tracked Garner down by submitting evidence found on Cahanes’ body to GEDMatch, a genealogy database that has recently been used to solve several cold cases, including one that led to the arrest of the notorious Golden State Killer in California.

His semen was found on Cahanes underwear and his DNA was found under her fingernails, authorities said.

During Friday’s hearing before Circuit Judge Marlene Alva, Garner’s lawyers said that’s not enough to implicate him in the killings and hold him without bond.

Dan Geraghty, Garner’s lawyer, said the focus should instead be on a second man who had long been considered a suspect. That man, James Bowers, said he gave Cahanes a ride on his motorcycle shortly before she was killed. Other witnesses recalled seeing Cahanes dancing with Bowers during her last night alive.

“Although the evidence establishes Mr. Garner and Ms. Cahnes at some point had a sexual encounter, there’s no evidence as to when,” Geraghty said. “It could have been that night, it could have been the night before, it could have been the day before.”

But Garner, who is black, in interviews with detectives denied ever knowing Cahanes, claimed he wouldn’t date recruits and said he would never have had sex with a white woman.

Assistant State Attorney Anna Valentini said the DNA evidence makes it so that Garner is the “only defendant” responsible for Cahane’s death.

“Your honor, the DNA evidence in this case is such that he’s the only defendant that could have been responsible for her death,” Valentini told Alva.

Alva agreed.

“In this case the evidence establishes that while there were certainly a number of potential suspects … as the science of DNA progressed throughout the years, ultimately a profile was sufficiently established” linking Garner to the crime, she said.

Garner, who has pleaded not guilty, was returned to the Seminole County jail without bond.

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