SARASOTA, FL — DNA evidence has linked a 62-year-old Florida inmate to the decades-old murder of Judith Elaine Doherty, whose body was found brutally beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in a Sarasota field by a jogger on July 31,1988. Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino announced the breakthrough in the 30-year-old case at a Tuesday afternoon press conferece.
David L. Stephens was already serving a 70-year sentence at the Desoto Annex prison on unrelated charges when investigators compared his DNA to evidence found on the victim’s body.
“The DNA match was irrefutable, very strong,” said lead Detective Anthony DeFrancisco of the city’s Criminal Investigation Investigations Division. “The DNA match was corroborated by other crime scene physical evidence linking Stephens to the murder.”
The body of the 23-year old Venice, Florida woman was found in a field by a jogger on the campus of Booker High School around 10:30 in the morning. She was lying on the ground next to her car after being subjected to what police described as an “extremely violent” homicide.
Sign up for our free Sarasota daily newsletter and news alerts
Stephens lived across the street from the high school at the time of the murder.
“She was very close to her sister. She was a wonderful person,” said DiPino, who was joined by two retired detectives who worked on the case over the years. The chief was also joined by the victim’s sister, Karen Aron.
The victim’s sister told reporters she was grateful to have closure for her family, many of whom are no longer living.
“Judith Elaine Doherty was my youngest sister,” said Aron, who was 17 when her sister was born. “I am here today to represent that family that was in agony 30 years ago. That’s a long time, the parents who never got to see closure. I remember the pain. My children’s pain was great. They cried many tears. This was the auntie that they loved so much.”
Stephens was serving his sentence in Arcadia on charges of armed sexual battery and burglary in connection with a February 1989 case that also occurred in Sarasota County. He was scheduled to be released in July 2021.
“She was a lovely girl. She could be a little bold at times. She spoke her mind,” Aron said of her sister. “She wasn’t a fading little flower, but she was a good person with a good heart. I saw her journals, her prayers, how she would write her prayers out to the lord, her hopes and her dreams.”
Watch below as investigators detail how they found the suspected killer of Judith Elaine Doherty 30 years after her death:
Photo of Judith Elaine Doherty and video from Tuesday’s press conference courtesy Sarasota Police Department
Click Here: West Coast Eagles Guernsey