It’s been a long road for Jan Cornell, but after 26 years justice has finally been served. It was in 1990 that she came home to discover her 11-year-old daughter Robin and her roommate Lisa Story, 32, dead. Autopsies would later reveal both were suffocated to death with pillows and then their dead bodies were sexually assaulted. Now, thanks to DNA testing and the vigilance of police, their killer has finally been found.
Police in Cape Coral, Florida last Wednesday announced the arrest of Joseph Zieler, 54, in the killings. Zieler’s DNA was collected after he was arrested in August for aggravated battery after shooting his son with a pellet gun. Jan Cornell said she’s never met Zieler and police have not identified a motive for the crime but neighbors of the man describe him as dangerous and “nasty.”
The crime dominated headlines and news coverage after it occurred on May 10th, 1990. Jan Cornell, a nurse, had spent the night at her boyfriend’s and left Robin home alone with Lisa Story, a co-worker at Cape Coral Hospital who had moved it to the Cornell’s apartment the day before. Stopping home before her next hospital shift started, she found her front door dead bolted shut but the sliding glass door’s in the back wide open. Inside were her dead daughter and friend. The killer left behind several clues which came to naught, but DNA evidence which in the end would lead police to Zieler.
The case remained open and handed down to investigators who knew it was just a matter of time before they got a DNA match. Jan kept the story alive in the press, and it was featured on America’s Most Wanted three times. Now, after years of vigilance, the case is finally closed. At Wednesday’s press conference, Jan was ebullient, telling reporters, “Today is like winning the Lotto of justice.” Zieler was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and one count of burglary and is being held on $500,000 bond.
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