Benjamin Holmes found guilty in 2001 murder of UCF student

‘It matched:’ DNA analyst links man to murder

ORLANDO, Fla. – Benjamin Holmes, the man on trial for the murder of UCF student Christine Franke, was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday evening.

A state crime lab analyst previously testified Monday that DNA collected from Holmes in 2018 matched DNA evidence found on the body of Franke nearly 22 years ago.

Franke was found shot to death in her Orlando apartment in October 2001.

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Although there is no evidence Franke was sexually assaulted, investigators said they found semen stains on her body.

Over the next two decades, investigators compared that DNA to about 35 of Franke’s family members, friends, co-workers and other people of interest but could not find a match.

In 2018, detectives submitted the crime scene DNA to GedMatch, a genealogy database many use to research ancestors and locate distant relatives.

After genealogists identified about 100 relatives of the suspected killer, detectives took DNA samples from several family members until they determined Holmes was the most likely suspect.

In 2018, investigators obtained a warrant to collect a swab of DNA from Holmes’ mouth.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst Laura Wenz compared Holmes’s DNA to the semen found at the crime scene in 2001.

“When I made the comparison, that DNA profile matched the DNA profile from Benjamin Lee Holmes,” Wenz told the jury.

Wenz testified that Holmes’ DNA matched semen samples that she originally tested in 2001, as well additional semen samples found on Franke’s body that were not analyzed until 2020.

No evidence has been presented at trial indicating Holmes knew Franke or lived near the victim.

The only evidence linking Holmes to Franke’s murder is DNA, according to trial testimony so far.

Holmes and his attorney have not disputed that Holmes’ DNA was found at the crime scene.

But the defense claims someone planted Holmes’ DNA on Franke’s body and staged the crime scene to frame Holmes for the murder. They have not yet explained how someone may have obtained Holmes’ body fluids.

“I do not know how the DNA got on the scene,” Wenz acknowledged under cross-examination by Holmes’s attorney, Jerry Girley.

“And in fact, this conclusion that you reached, it doesn’t say Mr. Holmes is guilty of committing a murder, does it?” Girley asked.

“No,” replied Wenz.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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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.