ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County deputies believe they have solved a 25-year-old using DNA evidence taken from a discarded beer can.
Kenneth Stough Jr., 54, was arrested Tuesday, accused in the stabbing of a convenience store clerk in February of 1996.
Deputies were called to Lil’ Champ mini-mart at 4510 Clarcona Ocoee Road before 7 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1996. A man was driving by the store and saw that the lights were out, which was unusual as the store was typically open at that time, records show. That man then called the sheriff’s office.
When deputies arrived, two employees of an armored car service were on the scene to pick up the store’s deposit, but the building was locked. Investigators tried to call the store’s number but received no answer, according to the arrest affidavit. They also spotted a car in the parking lot, which they determined belonged to Terrence Paquette, records show, but they were unable to reach him at his home phone number.
Deputies said an employee of Lil’ Champ who lived in the area and had closed the store the night before, drove by and spotted the law enforcement presence. He stopped to see what the issue was and supplied investigators with keys to the store, records show.
When deputies made their way inside, they found Paquette in the bathroom, dead with 73 stab wounds, according to the affidavit.
Deputies said there was a large amount of blood in the bathroom and around the store, showing where the killer had been in the store. Samples were collected and investigators determined not all of the blood was Paquette’s, records show.
At the time, detectives could not identify who the second blood samples had come from and the case went cold before being reopened in 2003. During a news conference Thursday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said this case was a first for the sheriff’s office to be solved through genetic genealogy.
In March 2021, detectives submitted the unknown blood sample to a genealogy database and found that the blood belonged to someone who was related to Kenneth Stough Sr. and Carol Ann Crawford, records show.
Deputies said they discovered that the two had been married and had three sons. Furthermore, they found that Kenneth Stough Jr. had lived across the street from the victim around the time of the murder, according to the affidavit.
Detectives said they found that Kenneth Stough Jr. was now living in Eustis and began surveillance. Eventually, investigators said they saw the man throw out a bag of empty beer cans in a public dumpster. The cans were retrieved and Kenneth Stough Jr.’s DNA was retrieved from the discarded cans.
The DNA was submitted for testing and came back as a match for the unknown blood sample retrieved from Lil’ Champ in 1996, investigators said.
“Just because we don’t make an arrest in a case in a day or in a few weeks or even a few months doesn’t mean we give up on our victims and their families,” Mina said.
Kenneth Stough Jr. faces charges of first-degree murder with a weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon.