Break in 34-year-old cold case gives answers to Minnesota family

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A big break in a decades-old murder case has brought answers to a Minnesota family.

Pamela Cahanes’ body was found just north of Orlando, Florida back in 1984 when she was 25 years old.

Now, a Jacksonville man is behind bars and Eileen Bergmann may finally have some answers about the death of her little sister 34 years later.

“I guess I’ve been overwhelmed all day,” she said. “This is joyful. I guess I’m happy. I’m just elated that it’s done. Too bad it took so long, but it’s done.”

Cahanes’ body was discovered next to an empty house for sale near Orlando in August, 1984.

She’d been beaten and strangled just two days after she graduated from basic training for the U.S. Navy.

Eventually, investigators used genetic genealogy research - the same technology used to find the Golden State Killer - to make an arrest. 

Wednesday morning, investigators arrested Dental Hygienist Thomas Garner after collecting his DNA from the trash, which matched DNA collected from Cahanes’ underwear and fingernails.

“I think that’s great,” said Bergmann. “I don’t think it would ever have been solved if it hadn’t been for that. From what I understand, this man lived a normal life for 34 years.”

Investigators say Garner served in the Navy at the same time Cahanes did, but so far, he hasn’t been cooperative, so they don’t have any word on a possible motive.

He is charged with first degree premeditated murder in Seminole County Court.