Man accused in 2001 murder of UCF student claims his DNA was ‘planted’

Lead detective denies crime scene was ‘staged’

ORLANDO, Fla. – A former Orlando police detective testified Thursday during the trial of a man accused in the 2001 murder of a UCF student that he has never encountered a crime scene that was staged to make it appear someone else committed it.

Benjamin Holmes, 42, suggested someone planted his DNA at a crime scene to frame him for the murder of 25-year-old Christine Franke.

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Although there is no evidence Franke was sexually assaulted before she was shot and killed in her Orlando apartment, detectives said they found drops of semen on her body.

Nearly two decades after the murder, investigators uploaded the suspected killer’s DNA profile to GEDmatch, a genealogy database typically used by people researching their ancestors.

Police identified Holmes as a suspect in 2018 after investigators and genealogists determined the crime scene DNA originated from someone in Holmes’s family.

A DNA sample taken directly from Holmes matched the DNA on Franke’s body, prosecutors said.

During opening statements, Holmes’s attorney did not dispute that DNA collected at the crime scene in 2001 belonged to his client.

But attorney Jerry Girley told jurors that the DNA evidence was planted by someone who staged the crime scene to protect “the real killer.”

Girley did not immediately indicate who the defense suspected of planting evidence or how that person could have obtained Holmes’ body fluid.

Former Orlando Police detective Roy Filippucci testified that he investigated several potential people of interest in the years following Franke’s murder, including her friends, co-workers and neighbors.

Those people were later eliminated as potential suspects after investigators determined their DNA did not match the DNA at the crime scene, Filippucci told jurors.

“In the course of your career, did you ever encounter crime scenes you thought were fake crime scenes or staged crime scenes?” Girley asked during cross examination.

“No sir,” Filippucci said. “Not one.”

Holmes’ murder trial resumes Friday.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.