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ORLANDO, Fla. - After 17 years of wondering and heartache for a Florida family, police say they now know who killed a University of Central Florida student in 2001.
Christine Franke was 25 years old in October 2001 when she was shot and killed in her Orlando home.
Fast forward 17 years, almost to the exact date, and the arrest of 38-year-old Benjamin Holmes.
“I honestly never thought they would find him,” said Franke’s mother Tina, adding that she and her family are relieved “just having it settled in our minds and knowing he can’t hurt anyone else.”
Police said after the murder, they quickly ran into dead ends in their search for clues. Investigators found DNA at the scene in 2001, but it didn’t match any of the DNA in the FBI or Interpol databases.
In 2018, Orlando police got creative.
Investigators sent the DNA to GenMatch, a voluntary DNA database used by people usually trying to trace their family’s genealogy. In May 2018, the DNA matched to three people who are second and third cousins of the suspect, police said.
After months of hard work and help from the suspect’s family, investigators were eventually able to zero in on Benjamin Holmes of Orlando.
On Friday, 11/2, OPD arrested Benjamin L. Holmes for the murder of Christine Franke after determining he was a match to DNA left at the crime scene in 2001. pic.twitter.com/lMwjhEOo7j— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) November 5, 2018
Investigators then took his DNA from cigars and a beer can to verify before making an arrest.
Police said Franke’s unsolved murder was just one of 15 cases in the country to use this technology. Orlando police said they plan to use the technology to help solve even more cases and may even start a genetic genealogy team in hopes of solving more cases.