A 44-year-old man faces first-degree murder charges in the killing of Olga Parlante, a 71-year-old woman who was found dead in her Dania Beach apartment in March 1997.
On the morning of her death, detectives say Parlante's assailant beat her, strangled her with a blouse and dragged her back inside the apartment when she tried to crawl away. He ransacked the apartment, presumably looking for valuables, and stole a television set, a portable radio and a mantel clock.
Palm prints collected at the scene were recently sent to the Broward Sheriff's Office Crime Lab for reevaluation.
Those prints led detectives to Bennie Hall, a "career criminal" who is serving an unrelated prison sentence in Martin County.
BSO homicide Detective Frank Illarazza worked the case for years but eventually the leads stopped coming in and the case went cold. Until two months ago, when Illarazza sent some old palm prints from the crime scene into a recently upgraded national database called AFIS. Technology at the time of the killing didn’t allow the prints to be compared to other prints in a nationwide database.
"The palm prints back then could not have been entered in AFIS, it could only do fingerprints", Illarazza said.
In April, detectives were notified that Hall’s palm prints were found on Parlante’s bedroom wall and on a receipt that had been dumped from her purse onto the apartment floor. His fingerprints also matched those taken from a small dresser drawer that had been emptied on the bed, on another receipt and on a business card.
"Closure is overrated," said Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti. "We want justice, and for me, it doesn't matter how long it takes."
Parlante, who was known as the "Bingo Queen," had nine grown children, lived alone and was partially paralyzed.
For years, on the anniversary of Parlante’s death, her relatives traveled to Broward County from Connecticut to hold a vigil in the hopes of generating a lead that would help detectives find her killer.
"She fought for her life, I know my mom," said Mark Parlante, the victim's son, at a news conference Thursday to announce the arrest.
He said he never lost hope that one day his mother's killer would be caught.
"I didn't think it would take 15 years," Parlante said. "We'll get our justice, but it's not going to take the pain away."
Detectives say Hall has an extensive history of arrests for robbing and beating elderly victims. Five days after Parlante’s killing, he was arrested in Miami-Dade County for possession of cocaine.
Detectives don't think that Hall acted alone. They're asking anyone who knew him back in the late 1990's or know why he would have been in Broward County at the time to contact the Broward Sheriff's Office.