Johnny Mack Brown killed Lillian DeCloe: Sheriff in 1994

Johnny Mack Brown, Lillian DeCloe

Johnny Mack Brown, Lillian DeCloe

Florida law enforcement announced Monday that investigators have identified the culprit in the murder of an 89-year-old woman who was raped and strangled to death in her home nearly 30 years ago.

With new advances in DNA technology, investigators announced who they identified Johnny Mack Brown as the attacker responsible for the horrifying 1994 murder Lilian De Cloe. Brown will never be tried in court. He died more than a decade ago.

according to a press release DeCloe of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) was relaxing at her Pompano Beach home on Saturday night in April 1994 when “violence and anger erupted in Lillian’s quiet, peaceful home” and an assailant sexually assaulted and killed the former nurse and teacher. For decades, the victim’s family wondered who wanted to murder a harmless old woman, but answers were scarce.

The Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Unit reopened the case in 2019, beginning “a journey through old case files, through DNA databases, and finally to the grave of a former US Marine who once lived a few doors down from Lillian’s home.”

“Like an episode of ‘CSI,’ a series of breakthroughs led to Lillian’s killer, and the first came from DNA evidence found in Lillian’s nightgown,” the publication reads. “The killer left semen on the garment after sexually assaulting Lillian. From this evidence, BSO’s Crime Lab developed a suspect profile. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) then made the second breakthrough.”

FDLE used the killer’s sperm to conduct a family search on its DNA database of skilled offenders in the state of Florida. The technique uses the DNA profile to search for the contributor’s father, son or brother. The test identified an individual whose DNA was on record because he had served time in a Florida prison and was a close relative of the person who raped and killed DeCloe.

That connection led investigators to Brown, a Vietnam War veteran. Brown’s family told investigators that he struggled with drug addiction and PTSD before his death.

Police said the final breakthrough in the case came in August, when detectives obtained a court order to exhume Brown’s remains from South Florida National Cemetery in Palm Beach County.

“Investigators collected tissue samples from Brown’s remains and testing by BSO’s crime lab showed that Brown’s DNA matched DNA left at the crime scene,” the release said. “The results were more than conclusive — the DNA results are 66.8 trillion times more likely to come from Brown and DeCloe than if they came from DeCloe and one other person.”

After detectives submitted their findings to the Broward district attorney’s office, prosecutors concurred in finding that Brown was responsible for DeCloe’s murder and the case “is now considered resolved and exceptionally resolved,” the sheriff’s office said.

“When a homicide occurs in any part of this county, it creates a shockwave of devastation and fear and uncertainty and insecurity in the environment that we live in, and it doesn’t stop when a suspect dies,” Broward Sheriff Gregor Toni said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Tony also said investigators believe the murder may have happened amid a “poorly gone burglary.”

“I think it was just the opportunity, he lived nearby, just a few doors down,” the sheriff said. “When he was going through tough times and he was homeless and he had a drug addiction it suggested that he broke into the house he may or may not know she was there alone but she was 89 she lived alone and it looked like all the drawers had been opened and things had gone through the house, like a burglary gone wrong. She must have confronted him, and it went on from there.”

Watch the press conference below:

[Image via BSO]

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected] Johnny Mack Brown killed Lillian DeCloe: Sheriff in 1994

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