A discarded beer can collected from a dumpster has helped investigators solve a murder that happened 25 years ago in Florida. The 1996 fatal stabbing of Terrence Paquette had been considered a cold case until investigators used forensic genetic genealogy to lead them to the killer.
On Feb. 3, 1996, deputies responded to the Lil’Champ convenience store on Clarcona Ocoee Road in Orange County. A witness called deputies after he drove by the store and noticed the lights were off, something he said was odd because it was typically open when he passed by. The witness said he turned around and parked at the store to look through the windows before trying to get inside. According to the police report, he did not see a store clerk and continued on his morning drive before calling deputies.
When deputies arrived at he store, two men were waiting out side the store to receive the cash deposit, but the door was locked. Deputies also noticed there was a small amount of blood on the lock. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a car in the parking lot that belonged to store manager Terrence Paquette. Authorities tried to call Paquette at home but received no response.
A fellow store employee was contacted and came to the scene to give authorities a key to the store. When investigators entered the store, they found Paquette dead in the store’s bathroom. The medical examiner at the time determined that Paquette had been stabbed 73 times.
Blood samples from multiple different areas of the crime scene were sent to a crime lab for testing. It was determined that whoever stabbed Paquette had been injured as well and left behind samples of their blood.
Because there were no suspects or leads in the case, it was closed in 1997 and documented as “pending further investigative leads.”
In 2003, the case was re-opened and an analyst uploaded the DNA from a freezer door handle to a system. No matches were found.
In 2019, another deputy took over the case and continued attempts to identify the blood left behind throughout the store believed to belong to the suspect.
In March of 2021, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent a sample to an outside lab to use for forensic genetic genealogy.
A genealogist determined that the samples were a distant match to a couple who had three children, including Kenneth Robert Stough Jr. The report said Stough, 28 at the time, and Paquette had lived nearby one and other.
Deputies said, with a judge’s order, they started to watch Stough using a GPS on his car in August. Detective Brian Savelli said he watched as Stough tossed a bag containing beer cans into a dumpster. The detective collected the bag and took them to Orange County’s Crime Scene Unit for inventory.
Analysts determined DNA on one of the cans matched the blood on the beverage handle door from 1996.
With the new evidence, authorities arrested Stough on Nov. 2. A judge ordered him held without bond.