2001 Cold Case Killing of Florida Student Cracked Due to DNA, Database: Police

November 12, 2018 Updated: November 12, 2018

A man was arrested in the 2001 killing of a 25-year-old University of Central Florida student after police said he was identified through a genealogy database.

Authorities arrested Benjamin Holmes in the killing of Christine Franke, who was killed in her Orlando apartment in October 2001, said Orlando police last week, ABC News reported.

“I honestly never thought they would find him,” her mother, Tina Franke, said on Nov. 9.

“This is such a happy day for us,” Franke said and added she was “overwhelmingly grateful” for the police investigators who “never gave up on my daughter’s case.”

christina franke dead in 2001 orlando
Police arrested Benjamin L. Holmes for the murder of Christine Franke after determining he was a match to DNA left at the crime scene in 2001. (Orlando Police)

Holmes was identified after the Orlando Police Department sent DNA samples to Parabon Nanolabs to create a composite of what Franke’s murderer may look like.

“We knew everything about his genetic make-up, but we did not know his name,” Detective Michael Fields said at a press conference, Fox News reported.

Police sent the DNA to Gedmatch, a public genealogy database, and they got a match. Three of Holmes’ family members had submitted their DNA to the database.

“We went out, we interviewed family members. We received DNA samples to compare against the killer’s DNA through kinship testing,” Fields told Fox. “Through this testing we were able to shop the kinship relationship between the killer and other family members. We eliminated most of the family using DNA genealogy and narrowed down to Holmes and his brother.”

Officials then followed Holmes and watched him discard a beer can and cigar. DNA samples found on those items were an exact match to the DNA found in Franke’s apartment 17 years ago.

Holmes had prior arrests on other charges.

Holmes denied killing Franke, and he’s being held without bond at the Orange County Jail, according to reports.