SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A jury on Thursday found a man guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in the slaying of a Navy recruit in Seminole County in 1984.
Thomas Garner was found guilty in the killing of Pamela Cahanes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Cahanes’ sister read a written statement in open court shortly after the verdict was read.
“As (Garner) sits in prison, I hope he thinks of time he lived free while my family was suffering,” she said.
Garner was arrested in 2019 after prosecutors say investigators found DNA evidence linking him to Cahanes’ murder.
Before closing arguments Wednesday, Garner took the stand in his own defense. He told jurors he may have had a casual sexual encounter with Cahanes several years ago but didn’t kill her.
Following the verdict, three of Cahanes’ sisters spoke about the outcome in court.
“I’m elated. I feel a sense of relief and just, it’s over, it’s done. Finally, after all these years,” Eileen Bergman said.
Garner is also being investigated as a possible suspect in another cold case murder. Detectives said his DNA matched with evidence from the scene where a 25-year-old woman was killed in Honolulu in 1982. Garner has not been charged in the case.
Prosecutors said after the verdict that they “wouldn’t be surprised” if Garner had more victims unaccounted for and speculated that he could be a serial killer.
Thank God for DNA, you know, if it wasn’t for that,” Anette Lindem, Cahanes’ youngest sister said. “And who knows if he’s a serial killer or not but now they have his DNA so maybe there’s other cold cases that can finally be resolved because of this one.”
The family praised the hard work of the investigators and the prosecutors.
“I think our team of prosecuting attorneys did an absolutely wonderful job — not only the detectives that were on the case for so many years but the prosecuting attorneys — I mean, dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts and were there for us and for Pam,” Bergman said.