8 Unsolved Cold Cases in Florida

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There are many cold cases in Florida, eight of which are listed here. There are on average 1,000 murders every year in Florida and it has been this way since 1971. The lowest was 859, and the highest was 1,379.

1. Willie Mease Presley

Location: Columbia County. Date: 15th Jan 1980

36-year-old Willie Mease Presley was shot dead at Presley Place, the business she owned in Columbia County. She was discovered in the back room of the premises, lying on her side. A knife was found lying near her.

No suspect was ever caught for the murder and no motive was ever found. Despite numerous investigations over the years, Presley’s murder remains unsolved and an active cold case. At the time of writing, there was a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprit.

2. Gary Townsel

Location: Miami-Dade County. Date: 7th Feb 1981

8 Unsolved Cold Cases in Florida
CREDIT: Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Bureau Cold Case Squad

26-year-old Gary Townsel was stabbed to death while approaching a suspected shoplifter. Gary was a Correctional Officer for the State of Florida who was working an off-duty job as a plainclothes store detective for J. C. Penney.

Townsel died of his injuries shortly after. Despite multiple witnesses, no suspect has ever been caught. The shoplifter was described as a white male, with bushy blonde or brown hair and in his late twenties. Gary’s murder remains a cold case.

3. Phoebe Winston

Location: Plant City, Polk County. Date: 3rd Mar 1978

8 Unsolved Cold Cases in Florida
CREDIT: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

23-year-old Phoebe Winston was reported missing on 28th Oct 1977, she had vanished from her home and disappeared without a trace. Her vehicle was discovered off Cleveland Heights Blvd.

In the car were signs of a struggle but there was no solid evidence of what had taken place. 18 months later on 27th Mar 1979, Winston’s skeletal remains were found in an open field close to where the car had been found.

She had been killed by a bullet to the head. Winston’s murder remains unsolved and no suspect has ever been caught. Anyone with information about this cold case should contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit.

4. James Norris

Location: Dixie County. Date: 4th Oct 1974

The death of 24-year-old James Norris is Dixie County’s oldest unsolved cold case murder. On October 4th, he had flown into Miami from his home in San Francisco, California, to go travelling.

On the same afternoon, he made his way to Citrus County where he sent a postcard to his family’s address in California. The postcard was stamped with the Inglis, Florida, mark. It was the last time any of his family or friends heard from him.

A year-and-a-half later, in April 1976, Norris’s skeletal remains were found in Dixie County but were not identified until April of 2011 using advancements in DNA technology. No suspect has ever been caught.

5. Elizabeth Batchelor

Location: Polk County. Date: 1st Aug 1978

8 Unsolved Cold Cases in Florida
CREDIT: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

At around 2:00am on that hot summer night in 1978, police made an unusual and disturbing discovery. A 1976 Ford pick-up truck had apparently crashed into a tree on Cass Road in Lake Alfred and caught on fire.

When the flames were put out, the charred body of Elizabeth Batchelor was found inside. Police immediately assumed she had died as a result of an accident but an autopsy concluded she had been a victim of homicide and was dead before the fire began. The cold case remains open with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

6. Jean Marie Stewart

Location: Miami Lakes. Date: 25th Mar 1980

In a sad and unusual case, 16-year-old Jean Marie Stewart disappeared while waiting outside a 7-11 convenience store at Cypress Village. It was the night before she was due to catch a flight to Pittsburgh for a family wedding.

Her friends had arranged a going away party for her and one of her friends was taking her there when he stopped off at the convenience store. He went inside the shop to make a purchase and when he returned to the car, Stewart was nowhere to be seen.

Her personal belongings, including the flight ticket, were still in the car. In 1981, the remains of an unidentified female were discovered in the neighbouring city of Hialeah. The body was logged and became a Jane Doe.

The body remained unidentified for 26 years until 2007 when new DNA technology confirmed the body was that of Stewart. A murder investigation was opened and remains a cold case to this day.

7. Jeffrey ‘Martelli’ Macchione

Location: Miami-Dade County. Date: 27th Apr 1979

8 Unsolved Cold Cases in Florida
CREDIT: Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Bureau Cold Case Squad

22-year-old Jeffrey ‘Martelli’ Macchione was shot dead in his own apartment. When neighbours arrived home, they witnessed a white male and female running from the area of the apartment and jumping into a dark sports vehicle.

When police investigated Macchione’s apartment, they found him dead inside. The identity of the suspects has remained a mystery ever since and Macchione’s murder remains a cold case to this day.

8. Amparo Arias Torres

Location: Miami-Dade County. Date: 11th Jun 1981

The body of 29-year-old Amparo Arias Torres was discovered in her apartment on 11th June 1981, after neighbours complained of a foul smell. Torres led a private life and was not well known to others nearby.

Despite this, different men were seen visiting her apartment at all times of the day and night. Investigators discovered her apartment was clean, tidy, and well-kept, and there were no signs of robbery.

They noted there were two empty coffee mugs in the apartment. Torres had been shot several times in the head. No suspect has ever been found and her murder remains an unsolved cold case.

Anyone with information on Miami-Dade County cold cases can contact the Miami-Dade Police Department.

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