SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — The Seminole County Sheriff's Office says it has solved the cold case murder of Pamela Cahanes, a Navy recruit who was murdered 34 years ago.

DNA evidence finally pointed investigators to a suspect.

Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the DNA of Thomas Lewis Garner, of Jacksonville, matched DNA that was found on underwear belonging to Pamela Cahanes. Garner was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in Jacksonville and is being held in the Seminole County jail without bond.

Cahanes, 25, was found dead and partially clothed after having been badly beaten in the front yard of a Sanford home. A passerby found her body, which had been strangled to death and was covered in scratches, on Aug. 5, 1984.

cold case

Cahanes had graduated just two days earlier from the Naval Training Center and had been seen the night before with an unidentified man in the Mariner's Club bar at the old Naval Training Center.

At one time, Garner had been a classmate of Cahanes' at the Orlando Naval Training Center.

Thomas Garner

Using genetic genealogy research, investigators were able to develop a DNA family tree that eventually matched Garner’s DNA to DNA found on Cahanes.

"Our hearts go out to Pamela Cahanes' family members, who have been steadfast in their search for justice," Lemma said. "Thanks to decades of persistence from our Major Crimes Unit, and partners from NCIS and FDLE, we have taken a giant step forward."