Jury selected, trial begins Tuesday in the 1999 murder and rape of a Sarasota woman

Jury selected, trial begins Tuesday in the 1999 murder and rape of a Sarasota woman
The trial for the man accused of raping and murdering a Sarasota woman in 1999 begins Tuesday morning. The murder of Deborah Dalzell went cold until detectives cracked the case nearly twenty years later through DNA technology. (Source: wwsb)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A cold case that heated up after nearly two decades of no arrests will be heard by jurors this week in Sarasota County.

The trial for the man accused of raping and murdering a Sarasota woman in 1999 begins Tuesday morning.

The murder of Deborah Dalzell went cold until detectives cracked the case nearly 20 years later through DNA technology. Defendant Luke Fleming was arrested and charged in 2018 with murder and sexual battery with great bodily injury in connection to Dalzell’s death.

Jury selection happened on Monday where prosecutors and Fleming’s defense attorney had to the ability to choose from a pool of more than 60 jurors.

Judge Charles Roberts says they will have a 12 person jury with two alternates.

Before jury selection went underway Monday morning, Fleming asked the judge to delay it until Tuesday. Fleming says he was not at his best to help with selection and had only slept two hours.

“They kept him in an area where there was no mattress... the lights were on and I believe there was just a steel bunk,” said criminal attorney Anne Borghetti.

In a statement from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office read in court by Judge Roberts, officers moved Fleming from his cell because he told them he feared for his life. A deputy in court said Fleming was moved to a drop down cell and they had limited space.

Judge Roberts decided to move forward with jury selection on Monday morning. Borghetti and Roberts agreed he would mention to the jurors Fleming’s lack of sleep.

Although potential jurors haven’t heard of all the facts in the case yet, prosecutors asked during jury selection what their opinion on DNA technology was.

Fleming was tied to Dalzell’s murder nearly two decades later because of new DNA technology. Detectives said new advancements in technology were able to produce trait predictions based off of unidentified DNA samples.

Law enforcement officials used the semen left behind in the 1999 scene to help build a profile on the case a few years ago. Detectives were able to link Fleming to the case through that profile. They later analyzed a DNA sample obtained and the comparison revealed the profile belonged to Fleming.

Judge Roberts says the trial is scheduled to go until at least Thursday and maybe Friday.

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