DELRAY BEACH — Nearly four decades after a Broward County woman was found beaten to death, her body run over near a Delray Beach train station, city police have arrested a man they believe was responsible for her murder.
Law-enforcement officers took Ralph Williams into custody in Jacksonville on Monday after a Palm Beach County grand jury indicted him in the 1983 murder of Carla Lowe, a 21-year-old woman from Pompano Beach.
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The arrest was the first for Delray Beach’s cold-case unit, which the department formed in January.
Investigators said new fingerprint technology led them to Williams, who is believed to have killed Lowe on Nov. 13, 1983, while she waited at an Amtrak train station near Depot Avenue.
“This is the exact reason why the cold-case position was initiated earlier this year,” Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the department’s headquarters. “To help some bring some level of closure to the families who have lost any hope of justice for their losses.”
Fingerprint reader from British company makes link from clue
According to published reports, Lowe’s body was found lying in the middle of Depot Avenue, which lies west of Interstate 95 and north of Atlantic Avenue. There was no apparent connection between Lowe and Williams, and a motive for the murder was not known, Detective Todd Clancy, the leader of Delray Beach’s cold-case unit, said Tuesday.
Clancy said that new technology from a company based in England helped investigators obtain fingerprints from a piece of evidence that was left at the scene.
“We weren’t able to get this fingerprint in the old traditional way that crime scene would get fingerprints,” he said. “There’s new process out there by the Foster & Freeman company based out of the UK, and they have a new machine out there and it’s able to get a fingerprint.”
Detectives did not elaborate on where the fingerprint was found, saying the investigation remains open.
As Clancy and current and former Delray Beach investigators spoke, members of Lowe’s family watched nearby. They did not speak at the news conference and left without taking questions. Jackie Lowe-Repass, Carla’s sister, later released a statement through police.
“I just want the world to know Carla was a good person,” Lowe-Repass’ statement said. “She was a beautiful and giving person. She wasn’t just a piece of trash that someone threw away.”
On her reaction to Williams’ arrest: “I played this in my head a thousand times. I never thought this day would come. There’s a name now to who did this to my sister.”
Second cold-case arrest from new technology during November in county
Williams, a former South Florida resident now living in Jacksonville, was taken into custody with the assistance of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. On Tuesday, he remained in custody in Duval County while awaiting extradition to Palm Beach County.
His arrest marks the second in recent weeks in which local law-enforcement agencies cited new technology in solving an older homicide case.
On Nov. 21, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Luis Ruiz Gonzalez on charges related to a deadly Lake Worth Beach home invasion in 2008. PBSO said new DNA technology linked Ruiz Gonzalez to the murder of Douglas Fernandes Sr.
Clancy said his conversations with past Delray Beach investigators led to Lowe’s murder becoming the first case reviewed by the new cold-case unit. Williams had long been in a person of interest in the case, he said.
Mark Woods, a retired Delray Beach lieutenant, was one of the original investigators.
“I’m so glad that the Lowe family is able to get closure and that there will be some justice for this victim who was so brutally murdered,” he said Tuesday.