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Charlotte County detectives solve 36-year-old cold case

Killer died in 2007, investigators say.
1988 cold case
Posted at 9:00 PM, Apr 22, 2024

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — A murder case from 1988 has been solved by Charlotte County cold case detectives. DNA evidence linked the homicide to a man, who they learned died in 2007.

Either November 26 or November 27 in 1988, detectives found 58-year-old Robert Hecht murdered in his home on Rio Togas Road.

Detectives learned he had been hit in the head several times with a heavy glass ashtray, while in a prone position on the living room couch.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office says his new car had been missing from the garage and presumed stolen. Through their investigation, detectives learned he met a man named Ray Saturday night. The two were last seen at Fisherman's Village Oyster Bar before Robert told a friend they were heading to another bar and then home.

However, investigators were not able to fully identify Ray.

On November 28, 1988, detectives found Robert's stolen car in North Carolina.

When officers searched the car and Robert's home, detectives say they found one cigarette butt in both the home and car.

Through his friends, they told investigators Robert would allow people to smoke in his house, but not his car. They deduced that the cigarette in the house fell from the ashtray during the attack.

They believe the one in the car belonged to the killer.

Fast forward to September 2021, cold case detectives took a look at the case again and interviewed everyone they could.

With advancements in DNA technology, they sent the cigarette butts off to labs again from both the house and car.

"It was determined DNA from the same person was present on both cigarettes. Since there was no match in the Combined DNA Index System (called CODIS), the detectives submitted the results for genealogical examination," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

From that, detectives say they found a family match in Tennessee.

"Through the process of elimination, interviews, and direct comparisons to family members (including the biological daughter who was 14-years-old at the time of this murder), the source of the cigarette butts’ DNA was identified as Kenneth Ray Miller.

Investigators showed witnesses who met Ray photographs of him, and they said that was the man Robert was with the night he was out on November 26. One even said they saw Ray in Robert's house that morning.

Detectives learned Ray died in 2007 of natural causes. From a background check, they learned he had a long criminal history including aggravated battery, burglary, arson and other crimes.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office officially closed the case.