Ex-classmate of Stillwater Navy recruit arrested for her 1984 murder

Authorities in Florida announced they'd made an arrest on Thursday.
Publish date:
Pamela Cahanes (left) was allegedly killed by Thomas Garner (right) in 1984.

Pamela Cahanes (left) was allegedly killed by Thomas Garner (right) in 1984.

Detectives in Florida have arrested a man they suspect is responsible for the murder of a Navy recruit from Stillwater, Minnesota 34 years ago.

The body of 25-year-old Navy recruit Pamela Cahanes was found in the side yard of a house in the unincorporated town of Sanford on August 5, 1984, about a half-hour north of where she was training in Orlando.

She had been beaten and strangled, according to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, with the case having gone unsolved for more than 34 years.

But police have now arrested and charged 59-year-old Thomas Garner, a dental hygienist from Jacksonville who was a former classmate of Cahanes.

The arrest was made after DNA taken from the scene was linked to him via genetic genealogy research, which has become increasingly used in recent years to make breakthroughs in cold cases.

KARE 11 reports Cahanes was one of eight siblings who grew up on a farm outside Stillwater, and joined the Navy in 1984 having spent some time working for a publishing company in St. Paul.

Detectives from Florida met with five of her siblings in Minnesota last week, and showed them a video of Garner being arrested.

"Our hearts go out to Pamela Cahanes’ family members who have been steadfast in their search for justice,” said Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma. 

"Thanks to decades of persistence from our Major Crimes Unit, and partners from NCIS and FDLE, we have taken a giant step forward."

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