An undated photo of Lillian DeCloe provided by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. – Broward Sheriff’s Office
(POMPANO BEACH, Fla.) — On April 29, 1994, 89-year-old Lillian DeCloe was beaten and killed in her Pompano Beach, Florida, home. Now, authorities say DNA has identified her killer: a Vietnam War veteran who at one point lived a few houses away.
DeCloe, a former teacher and nurse who lived alone, “fought for her life” when she was “brutally” beaten and sexually assaulted, Broward Sheriff’s Detective Dave Towsley said at a news conference Tuesday.
When DeCloe’s niece, who helped care for her in her old age, arrived at the house, she found her body on the floor.
The house had been ransacked, according to the sheriff’s office.
“For the most part, there wasn’t a single clue or witness,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said. The case went cold.
In 2004, the local crime lab started doing DNA testing and semen was recovered from DeCloe’s nightgown, Towsley said. But there was no match between the recovered semen and any DNA in CODIS, the law enforcement database, Towsley said.
Police later turned to familial DNA. Authorities found that the DNA from the nightgown was a “first-degree relative” of a man whose DNA was accessible for serving time in a Florida prison, Towsley said.
Johnny Mack Brown, who died of natural causes in 2010, was determined to be the father of the man who served time, according to the sheriff’s office. Brown’s remains were exhumed, Towsley said, and testing confirmed Brown’s DNA was a match to the DNA left on DeCloe’s nightgown.
In 1992, Brown’s address was listed as around the corner of DeCloe, Towsley said. It’s not clear if Brown was still living there in 1994, Towsley said.
Brown, who was a Marine during the Vietnam War, struggled with PTSD and drug addiction, the sheriff’s office said, citing Brown’s family.
Towsley called the attack on DeCloe a crime of opportunity and said it appeared to be a burglary gone wrong.
Brown was never on law enforcement’s radar in this case, Towsley said. No other crimes have been linked to Brown, he added.
DeCloe’s niece, June Nicholas, who found her aunt’s body, said in a video released by the sheriff’s department, “I know wherever she is, she can sleep in peace.”
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.