PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – On January 26, 2023, detectives assigned to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Robbery/Homicide – Cold Case Unit arrested 55-year-old Michael Lapniewski, Jr. for a murder that occurred in 1987.
Detectives conducted an extensive investigation over a period of several years. A suspect was developed after advancements in DNA testing.
According to detectives, on February 9, 1987, deputies responded to a residence in unincorporated St. Petersburg for a deceased person.
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The victim, 82-year-old Opal Weil was located deceased by her sister-in-law after not answering her telephone. Weil had obvious and visible signs of trauma.
Deputies discovered the suspect fled the scene prior to their arrival.
Throughout the course of the initial investigation, detectives discovered the suspect gained entry to the residence after removing a single windowpane entering the Florida room of the residence. Detectives also discovered the phone line to the residence had been cut. Forensic technicians collected evidence left at the scene including several hairs.
Throughout the course of the investigation, a partial DNA profile was developed from the hairs located at the scene, but no matches were identified until recently.
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In December of 2020, PCSO cold case detectives were assigned to the case.
Detectives sent a request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for additional testing of the hairs located at the scene. Detectives also contacted Parabon Nanolabs to conduct further genealogical testing.
After extensive testing was done by Parabon Nanolabs, family trees were constructed, and familial relatives were identified. Of the relatives identified, Parabon Nanolabs were able to narrow down the suspects to three possible males. After extensive investigation, detectives excluded two of the males leaving Lapniewski as the primary suspect, who at that time resided a half mile from where the murder occurred.
Detectives learned Lapniewski was currently residing in Waveland, Mississippi.
Pinellas County detectives traveled to Mississippi to conduct further investigations. Through various investigative techniques, detectives obtained Lapniewski’s DNA, which was submitted to the FDLE for analysis. Detectives learned the DNA profile obtained by detectives from Lapniewski matched the profile developed from the evidence at the scene.
Lapniewski was arrested in Mississippi on January 26th and extradited to Pinellas County where he is being charged with First-Degree Murder.
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