Fla. Woman, 89, Was Sexually Assaulted and Murdered 28 Years Ago — Now Police Say Neighbor Killed Her

Using familial DNA, authorities have finally solved the 1994 cold case

Lillian DeCloe, a former teacher who was sexually assaulted and murdered back in 1994
Lillian DeCloe. Photo: Broward Sheriff's Office

On the evening of On April 29, 1994, Lillian DeCloe was relaxing in her home in Pompano Beach, Fla., when a man broke in and attacked her.

DeCloe, a former teacher and nurse who lived alone, was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by the intruder. In a news conference on Tuesday, Broward Sheriff's Detective Dave Towsley said that Decloe, 89, "fought for her life" before being overpowered and beaten to death.

Hours later, according to ABC News, DeCloe's niece arrived at her house and found her bloody body on the floor.

For nearly three decades, the case went frustratingly cold. Authorities had no witnesses, and the DNA collected at the scene did not match any known criminals in the database.

But now, police say that they've solved the mystery using new advances in familial DNA.

Using DNA found on DeCloe's nightgown, authorities were able to find a close relative of the killer in the database. As the retraced the man's family tree, they zeroed in on Johnny Mack Brown, DeCloe's former neighbor.

The alleged killer, Johnny Mack Brown
Johnny Mack Brown. Broward Sheriff's Office

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Brown died of natural causes in 2010. Authorities exhumed his remains and made a definitive match, meaning that Brown was at the scene when DeCloe died.

Citing Brown's family, the sheriff's office says that Brown, who was a Marine during the Vietnam War, struggled with PTSD and drug addiction.

In his press conference, Towsley called the attack on DeCloe a "crime of opportunity" and classified it as a burglary gone wrong.

In a video released by the sheriff's office, DeCloe's niece spoke out and expressed her gratitude that the case has finally been solved, saying "I know wherever she is, she can sleep in peace."

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