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DNA leads to arrest in 1996 homicide

A blind hit in a DNA database helps authorities make an arrest in a murder case that shocked a Citrus Park community seven years ago.

CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
Published October 4, 2003

TAMPA - A 7-year-old DNA sample taken from a victim turned up a match in a state criminal DNA database this week, and proved to be the key piece of evidence that allowed Hillsborough deputies to solve a 1996 murder case.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that it has charged Chatsiam Adam Lioy with first-degree murder in the slaying of Javier "Jay" Lopez, a Citrus Park man stabbed to death in his home by an intruder in 1996.

At a news conference late Friday, deputies said they cracked the cold homicide case through the use of DNA testing. It was their first use of the new technology to solve a crime using a blind hit on the DNA database.

Lopez was killed in his home on Exposition Drive in the Fawn Ridge section of Citrus Park about 4 a.m. on Nov. 13, 1996, after confronting a man who broke into his home. Deputies say it was a random burglary that went bad, and Lopez did not know his attacker.

Arrested Friday, Lioy, 35, a self-employed tree-trimmer from Seffner, confessed to the crime, deputies said.

According to deputies, Lioy broke into the Lopez home, and Lopez tried to defend himself with a baseball bat. Lioy thenstabbed Lopez to death and sexually assaulted his wife, then set a couch on fire and fled, deputies said.

The case went unsolved for nearly seven years. In January, Hillsborough detectives submitted DNA evidence from the attack to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which keeps a database of DNA samples from inmates.

A sample of Lioy's DNA was taken while he was in state prison after being convicted in 1998 for burglary in Hillsborough County.

Five or six weeks ago the FDLE reported that Lioy's DNA matched that from the crime scene. To confirm the match, detectives surreptitiously took another sample of DNA from Lioy this week while he was in custody on a traffic charge. The Sheriff's Office declined to say how they obtained that DNA.

"This is the first case we have (made) on a match on a random sample of DNA evidence," said Chief Deputy David Gee. In the investigation, "his name had never come up before."

It was a crime that stunned the quiet neighborhood at the time. The couple were asleep in the master bedroom when an intruder confronted Lopez, who armed himself with a baseball bat and struck the man in the head. The two men fought, and Lopez was stabbed to death. The intruder then stabbed the woman as she tried to grab a cell phone.

As the attacker escaped and the house burned, the woman ran outside. Dressed in a pink bathrobe, she went to a neighbor's home and called 911.

Not realizing Lopez had been stabbed to death, firefighters carried him out of the house trying to save him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Along with the murder charge, Lioy also is charged with arson, armed burglary, armed kidnapping and sexual battery.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Lioy said during his confession that he had been at a Hillsborough bar before the attack and broke into a vacant home nearby and then struck the Lopez home. He had been living in New Port Richey at the time of the murder.

"The big question tonight is what else has he been up to," Gee said. Authorities will investigate whether Lioy is linked to other crimes.

"He's got just a horrendous background," Gee said.

Lioy has a lengthy criminal record in Florida dating back to 1985, according to Department of Corrections records. That year he was convicted of two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon in Miami-Dade County.

He also has served time or court-ordered supervision for charges such as battery on a law enforcement officer, robbery and burglary for crimes that took place in Miami-Dade, Pasco and Monroe counties.

- Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report.

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