I-Team Unsolved: DNA, but no suspect in Stephenson double murder in Florence

In our I-Team Unsolved series, WCPO will examine homicide cold cases in Greater Cincinnati.

Almost six years ago, a family member found Peggy and William Stephenson, both 74, dead in their Florence home. Investigators have the killer’s DNA, but no suspect has been captured.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2011, the Stephensons didn’t show up for Sunday church at either of their regular services — Bill ran the “Trucker’s Chapel” at Travel America Truck Stop in Florence, and Peggy was a longtime organist at the Union Baptist Church in Florence, according to the Boone County Sheriff's Office website

 

Family and friends said the older couple had no enemies. They were high school sweethearts, parents and volunteers in the community.

“We just want some answers,” the couple’s youngest daughter, Beth Victor, said two years after the homicides. “It makes no sense. It makes no sense."

Investigators said the couple’s bodies were arranged and the killer remained in the condo for a while after killing the couple.

“I can tell you that the crime scene was staged afterward,” said Tom Scheben from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. “Somebody was in there for a couple of hours doing crazy stuff with the scene — we’ll just leave it at that.”

The biggest “break” in the case came in 2012, when new DNA was discovered at the scene.

“It is, by far, the best evidence that we could ever hope to have at this point,” Scheben said.

BELOW: The full news conference after DNA discovery at the Stephenson crime scene

 

The lead investigator in the case, Coy Cox, said it was “just a matter of time” before the killer was found. That was five years ago.

“In a lot of cases, you might know who did a crime, but never be able to prove it,” Cox said. "We have something much better than that now. We can prove who did our crime.”

Since then, investigators interviewed hundreds of people in dozens of states and tested DNA evidence against all genetic profiles in the FBI’s national database. The searches haven’t produced a match. Still, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office vowed to “continue (an) aggressive search for the killer.”

The Stephenson case fell victim to several “dead ends” over the past six years. Mostly notably, perhaps, is the arrest of the couple’s nephew, Robert Charles Stephenson, for the murder of a 67-year-old woman from Southeast Indiana.

 

Robert Charles Stephenson, now 62, was sentenced to life in prison for beating Leigh Jennings of Aurora, Ind., to death with a pepper grinder and a frying pan in March 2012. Police said he stole $1,000 in cash from Jennings’ home to repay a debt to a family member.

 

At one time, he was named a person of interest in his aunt and uncle’s deaths, but DNA from the scene wasn’t a match.

 

After the bombshell DNA discovery, the Stephenson family offered a $100,000 reward for information in the killings for 90 days, but it expired Nov. 30, 2012. The Stephenson family also launched a billboard campaign, hoping to reach the truck drivers Bill ministered.

 

"The killer thinks they've gotten away with murder. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Doug Stephenson, the couple’s son. "We will never stop looking for you. One day we will stand face to face in a courtroom, and you will face justice for the despicable cowardly act you committed against our family.”

 

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office still welcomes tips in the Stephenson homicide cases. If you have information, call 859-334-8496 or email StephensonTip@BooneCountyKy.org.

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