Cape detective to take part in TV show taping
America’s Most Wanted and the Cape Coral police are once again teaming up to tell the 20-year-old story of the murders of Robin Cornell and Lisa Story.
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 roommate.
Story had recently moved in and had agreed to watch Robin the night of May 9, while Cornell visited her boyfriend. Cornell returned home the next morning to find her daughter’s naked body on the floor of her bedroom. Story’s body was later found in the bed in her own bedroom, according to officials.
Both victims had been suffocated and sexually assaulted.
The unsolved murders have been featured twice on the popular television show, both in 2006 and 2007. Earlier this year, as the 20th anniversary of the deaths came and went, police officials were looking toward June, when America’s Most Wanted anticipated airing the aging case for a third time.
Cape Detective Christy Jo Ellis, with the Investigative Services Bureau’s Major Case Unit, explained that the third episode got pushed back until the show proposed an August date, with a twist. The producers had decided to alter the show’s format, starting with the episode that would include the Cornell-Story murders.
Ellis would meet with John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, for the taping of the episode and they would discuss the murders, making it more conversational. She said they proposed the more “one-on-one” format for taping or perhaps having detectives sitting around talking about the case.
“To try and get a fresh, new approach. Rather than it being the same old, same old,” Ellis said, referring to rerunning the first and second episodes.
Ellis flew out to Washington, D.C., for the taping Tuesday. She added that the show is covering her expenses for the trip: airfare, hotel and transportation.
“I had no idea that they were going to go to this expense and try to reach out to the public to try to get the information that we need,” she said. “It’s very heart-warming to know that it’s not just to get ratings. Their heart is in the right place.”
The episode will air Aug. 28 at 9 p.m. on FOX. For the airing, the producers will again fly Ellis back out to Washington, where she will sit in with those answering the phones on the tip hotline. Once again, expenses are covered.
The idea is to have someone familiar with the case present to talk to the caller if the tip seems strong, like if the person knows details about the case that have not been shared with the public, Ellis explained.
“That way is something happens to come in,” she said. “They’re not just taking in a tip and faxing it to us the next day.”
“It’s something that they would like to see solved, as well,” Ellis added.
In May, police officials reported that new DNA evidence was being submitted for testing. The person’s DNA and fingerprints did not match those gathered at the crime scene. Ellis called the once possible lead “very, very hopeful.”
“We’ll take anything,” she said. “We would rather run things down and come to dead-ends than have nothing.”
One person who is perhaps the most excited about the third airing is Cornell.
“She’s so excited, she’s ectatic,” Ellis said. “Maybe the third time’s the charm, if you will.”
If anyone has any information regarding the case, 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.