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20 years later, hope remains that killer will be found

By Staff | May 10, 2010

As the 20th anniversary of the murders of Robin Cornell and Lisa Story passed Monday, those tied to the case continue to keep the investigation going in the hopes of one day finding their killer.
Called the city’s “most visible unsolved homicides” by officials in years past, the crime has perplexed investigators since May 10, 1990, when an unknown assailant entered Jan Cornell’s residence at 631 S.E. 12th Ave. and killed her 11-year-old daughter and new roommate.
According to officials, Story had recently moved in and had agreed to watch Robin the night before while Cornell visited her boyfriend. The next morning, Cornell returned home to find her daughter’s naked body on the floor of her bedroom. Story’s body was found in her bed.
Both victims had been suffocated and sexually assaulted, officials reported.
Monday, Cornell said she held out hope that the murderer would be found.
“Looking for the person who hurt Robin and Lisa has become a way of life,” she said during an interview at the Cape Coral Police Department.
About three years ago, the CCPD hired a retired New York City detective, Fidel Balan, to investigate the cold case and try to develop new leads on the murders. Balan was unable to solve the case prior to the expiration of his contract, so the CCPD assigned two detectives in the Investigative Services Bureau’s Major Case Unit to the case.
Detectives Kurt Grau and Christy Jo Ellis said Monday that new DNA evidence is being submitted for testing as they continue to review the older case files.
“We come across different things that haven’t been tested,” Grau said.
“We have the killer’s DNA. It’s just a matter of getting the right person,” he added. “We have the key, we just need the lock that the key fits into.”
A set of keys and watch were also collected from the crime scene.
According to the detectives, the alleged murder’s DNA has been run through a national database, but no match had been made as of Monday. This means that the person’s DNA has not been collected and entered into the database.
But, the detectives are not giving up hope. As the duo pours over the old case files, they re-examine the suspect lists and question why people were crossed off. Some are re-questioned while new statements are taken. For example, Ellis explained, construction workers in the area at the time were looked at again.
“We just haven’t gotten the right person,” Grau said.
That is where police and Cornell are asking for the public’s help. The story has been featured twice on the television show “America’s Most Wanted,” in 2006 and 2007. It will air again in June in an effort to create awareness for the murders and hopefully provide additional leads to help solve the case.
Ellis said the 911 call, photos and evidence are presented on the program.
“Hopefully, these things will jog people’s memory,” she said.
Police Chief Rob Petrovich, who has seen the evidence and photographs of the crime scene, said the department will continue to investigate the case.
“It leaves an imprint in your mind,” he said.
“This is a commitment that we made,” Petrovich added. “It’s just something that you can’t let go.”
Cornell applauded the CCPD’s efforts to keep her daughter’s case alive, for “not just putting in a closet somewhere and forgetting about it.”
“It gives me great hope,” she said. “I can sit here and say that and be truthful. They are doing everything they can.”
Cornell added that the DNA evidence that police have will match up one day.
“When it does, then we’ll have him,” she said.
Anyone with any information regarding the case can call the Cape Coral Police Department at 574-3223. To remain anonymous, call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at (800) 780-TIPS (8477) and be eligible for a cash reward.