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Detective Solves Three-Decade-Old Cold Case In Just Two Days

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on :
Detective Solves Three-Decade-Old Cold Case In Just Two Days
Detective Solves Three-Decade-Old Cold Case In Just Two Days (Honolulu Police Department/Alamy)

A nearly thirty-year-old cold case has been solved in two days by a world-renowned 'DNA detective'.

On 3 November, 1994, 37-year-old exotic dancer Lisa Fracassi was strangled to death with a telephone cable in her apartment on Nehua Street in Honolulu, Hawaii.

However, DNA wasn't able to be pulled from some of the evidence collected at the crime scene until decades later.

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Photo of Lisa Fracassi who's murder case went cold for nearly three decades. Credit: Honolulu Police Department
Photo of Lisa Fracassi who's murder case went cold for nearly three decades. Credit: Honolulu Police Department

For a few days at the time, Fracassi's door had a 'Do Not Disturb' sign hung on it, Hawaii News Now reports.

In an interview at the time, a detective stated: "No one heard any suspicious activity or noises."

However, the 37-year-old's body was later discovered by a maid who worked for a nearby hotel while she was on her way to deliver some towels.

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It was determined that Fracassi's mouth was stuffed with a sheet and she was strangled to death with a phone cord, according to law enforcement sources.

Sources also revealed a cigarette butt and condom were found at the scene.

Lisa Fracassi's homicide case was only just solved after DNA was matched from a condom and cigarette butt to the murderer's family member. Credit: Honolulu Police Department
Lisa Fracassi's homicide case was only just solved after DNA was matched from a condom and cigarette butt to the murderer's family member. Credit: Honolulu Police Department

Cecil Trent was not considered a suspect at the time. It was only in October 2020, when chief genetic genealogist for Parabon Nanolabs, CeCe Moore, took on the case that Trent was investigated.

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Private investigator Debra Allen explained how the case was returned to because of the possibility 'some kind of new technology' helping 'make that DNA usable today', Law and Crime reports.

Trent was 29 years old at the time of Fracassi's murder. He died in 2013.

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However, DNA from the cigarette and condom were found to be a match to a new sample from a close relative of Trent's, while one of his fingerprints was lifted from the crime scene and found to also be a match.

Moore said: "My job is comparing this DNA to the genealogy database. And then working with public records to learn more about the families who share DNA with them."

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It took Moore just two days to identify Trent as the suspect, using techniques she had developed herself and which were used to catch the Golden State killer in 2018.

"It’s important to remember what I do is just a tip. It’s a highly scientific tip but there’s no arrest based on genetic genealogy. We then hand that information over to law enforcement," she said.

The relationship between Trent and Fracassi is yet to be ascertained.

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Moore explained her surprise at having her findings announced, but said it felt good to finally crack the cold case despite Trent having passed away.

She added: "We won’t see justice in this case since he can’t be arrested and tried. But hopefully it provides some answers to those who cared about her and loved her."

Former HPD detective and Hawaii Pacific University Professor Sheryl Sunia concluded: "It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to tell the families you’re going to get closure. We know what happened. We know who did this."

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677 

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Poppy Bilderbeck

Poppy Bilderbeck is a Junior Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from The University of Manchester in 2021 with a First in English Literature and Drama, where alongside her studies she was Editor-in-Chief of The Tab Manchester. She currently runs the mental health column for UNILAD, and is such a crisp fanatic that the office has now been forced to release them in batches.

Topics: News, Crime, True crime, US News