Arrest Finally Made In A 26-Year-Old Double Murder Case: Victim’s Mother Says Suspect’s Apprehension ‘Nothing Short Of A Miracle’

Jan Cornell remained hopeful for 26 years, ever since her daughter, Robin Cornell, and Jan’s roommate, Lisa Story, were brutally murdered in 1990. Cornell says that the arrest of the suspect in the case, after all these years, is “nothing short of a miracle.”

Joseph Zieler, a 54-year-old of North Fort Myers, Florida, was arrested on Wednesday by Cape Coral police, as Chief David Newlan announced, for the murders of Cornell and Story.

The grieving mother and friend, who has never lost hope, shared her happiness following the arrest, as USA Today notes.

“It was like winning the lottery of justice. Every prayer, every word, everything, came full circle.”

On the night of the devastating murders, Cornell was at her boyfriend’s house watching television and then she fell asleep. It was May 9, 1990, and her daughter, 11, as well as her roommate, 32, were at the apartment where they all resided. When Cornell returned to the apartment, she found Lisa and Robin both dead inside.

The case remained a mystery for decades, yet in August, Zieler was in Lee County jail on a felony charge of aggravated battery after shooting his own son with a pellet gun. A DNA test was taken at that time, and the results matched him to the evidence found at the scene of the murder 26 years ago.

The suspect, who was 28 at the time, faces five charges, including two counts of sexual battery, one count of burglary, and two counts of first-degree murder. His first appearance for these charges will be on Thursday morning in Lee County court. Although a bittersweet time for Jan Cornell, she cannot help but feel relieved about the arrest. She spoke of her reaction when police visited her home on Monday to relay the news of the arrest.

“It was a miracle.”

Cornell went on to state that she has no connection to Zieler and no information on the man who took the life of her daughter and roommate.

“I’ve looked at every outlet to see where there might have been a connection.”

Credit was given by the mother and friend of the victims to the law that requires DNA testing for those who are arrested for felonies. The law that was passed back in 2009, and it is because of the DNA testing requirement that Zieler was discovered.

“When you are looking for someone who killed people you loved you just get more hope,” she said. “If (Zieler) never got in trouble this case would never be solved. This is the beginning of the end.”

It was the Lee County Sherriff’s Office that notified Cape Coral police when there was a DNA match on CODIS. Further testing was done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. All results came back positive in regard to the evidence that was collected in the apartment at the condominium where the two victims were murdered.

Newlan spoke on the new information and evidence that led to the arrest.

“We got him. This brings closure to the family. Twenty-six years is a long time.”

The double murder was the longest open homicide case in the city, and law enforcement officials are relieved they can now close the book on it and bring closure to Cornell after decades. The case has drawn attention over the years, and the crimes were reported on the show, America’s Most Wanted, three times, as well as on other similar programs.

Officers involved in the ongoing investigation share the same happiness that Cornell has demonstrated.

“To tell you the system works is the best thing ever,” said Christy Jo Ellis, chief investigator for the Cape Coral police. “I’m over the moon. It was so surreal when I got the phone call. I said, ‘Are you kidding me?'”

[Featured Image by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]