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Twenty-year-old Gainesville murder cold case cleared

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Using DNA evidence, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office thinks it has solved a 20-year-old Gainesville murder case.

The State Attorney’s Office will review the evidence and decide whether or not to prosecute, according to a sheriff’s office release, which said that DNA from registered sex offender Paul Eugene Rowles has been connected to Foster.

Rowles is already serving a life sentence in the Florida Department of Corrections.

In March 1992, 21-year-old Elizabeth Foster was reported missing. Her blue Honda CRX was discovered in the parking lot behind a restaurant south of Williston Road.

About a week later, Foster’s body was found in a shallow grave on the east side of Highway 441, not far from the restaurant. She had been sexually assaulted and severely beaten.

There were no eyewitnesses and no surveillance videos, said Lieutenant Todd Kelly.

Twenty years ago it was a difficult case to solve, he said.

Sheriff Sadie Darnell formed a cold case unit when she took office, and the unit has been working to solve cases like Foster’s.

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Evidence from the murder was re-examined using new technologies, Kelly said.

DNA evidence was also used by the cold case unit to solve a 2008 sexual assault in the Haile Plantation neighborhood in Gainesville.

“It’s not so much that there’s some new police technique that they’re using,” Kelly said. “It’s more so that the technology has gotten better and better over the years, so that’s enabled them to uncover some new leads and some new avenues to explore that they weren’t capable of before.”

Solving Foster’s murder is positive for the community, the victim and the victim’s family, Kelly said.

Katherine Hahn edited this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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