Deputies in Florida say they have identified a man accused of murdering a woman in 1987.
On Wednesday night, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced that deputies had arrested Michael Lapniewski, Jr., 55, for allegedly killing Opal Weil, who was 82 at the time.
Weil was discovered dead on February 9, 1987, when her sister-in-law went to check on her after she did not answer the phone, according to officials, and she had “obvious and visible signs of trauma.”
According to officials, the suspect fled the scene before deputies arrived at the residence in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Lapniewski allegedly gained entry into the home by removing a “single windowpane” and entering a room, adding that the phone line to the home was cut.
Investigators discovered several hairs in the evidence collected from the scene and were able to form a partial DNA profile but did not make an arrest at the time.
When cold case detectives from the sheriff’s office were assigned to the case in December 2020, investigators asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct additional testing of the hairs found at the scene and contracted Parabon Nanolabs to “conduct further genealogical testing.”
The sheriff’s office said that “extensive testing” by Parabon Nanolabs resulted in the construction of family trees and the identification of relatives, narrowing the list of suspects down to three possible men.
Detectives were able to narrow the list of suspects even further, leaving Lapniewski as the sole suspect, who officials say lived a half-mile away from Weil at the time of the murder.
After learning that the suspect was living in Waveland, Mississippi, Pinellas County detectives went to the area where Lapniewski lives and were able to obtain his DNA, according to the sheriff’s office. Detectives then submitted the DNA for testing, which they claim came back as a match for the DNA profile developed at the scene.
Lapniewski was arrested by Mississippi authorities on Jan. 26 and extradited to Florida, where he faces a first-degree murder charge.