Suspect who allegedly killed Fla. man with glass ashtray in 1988 is positively identified

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun8,2024

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. (TCD) — A cold case has come to a close after investigators used the DNA from cigarette butts to positively identify a suspect in the beating death of a 58-year-old man in 1988.

In late November 1988, friends contacted the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office to request a welfare check on Robert Hecht at his home on Rio Togas Road. Deputies responded and found out the man had been “struck in the head several times with a heavy glass ashtray while in a prone position on the living room couch.”

According to the sheriff’s office, the victim had purchased a Lincoln around a month prior, and it was missing from the garage. Deputies suspected the vehicle had been stolen.

Upon further investigation, officials learned Hecht was last seen with a man who introduced himself as “Ray.” The man, Kenneth “Ray” Miller, reportedly had a Southern accent and said he was from Tennessee and Kentucky. Miller allegedly separated from his wife, and he was the father to a 14-year-old girl. The victim’s friends and family had never seen Miller before.

According to the sheriff’s office, Hecht and Miller were last seen at the Fisherman’s Village Oyster Bar in Punta Gorda, Florida. Hecht reportedly said to a friend that he and Miller were going to go to another bar that night and then return home. Investigators were unable to confirm Miller’s identity at the time.

On Monday, Nov. 28, 1988, local officials found the victim’s Lincoln parked in North Carolina, and they seized the vehicle.

During a search, the sheriff’s office said investigators found one cigarette butt in the Lincoln and another in Hecht’s home. According to authorities, “The initial investigation determined Robert would allow people to smoke in his house but not in his car.”

Officials reportedly determined the cigarette butt in the house had fallen from the ashtray during the fatal beating. Deputies suspected the cigarette butt from the Lincoln was from the person who killed Hecht and took his vehicle. The sheriff’s office said, “Due to his no smoking rule, the car would not have contained a cigarette butt prior to the murder.”

Detectives reexamined the case in September 2021 and determined the DNA from the cigarette butts belonged to the same person. Officials submitted the DNA from the cigarette butts to Othram the following year. Othram scientists then used genetic genealogy to develop a comprehensive genealogical profile and found possible relatives of the unidentified suspect. The sheriff’s office used the leads to identify the suspect as Kenneth Miller, who died in 2007 of natural causes.

Witnesses reportedly confirmed that Miller was the man they saw with Hecht on the night of Nov. 26, 1988. Deputies said one of the witnesses saw Miller in Hecht’s residence that morning, and he was sitting on the couch in the living room with a blanket over his lower body. According to the sheriff’s office, the witness believed Miller had slept there. Deputies noted, “This was the same couch where Robert’s body was located.” Other individuals allegedly saw Miller driving the stolen car.

According to the sheriff’s office, Miller “had a long criminal history,” including aggravated battery, burglary, and arson.

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Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Suspect who allegedly killed Fla. man with glass ashtray in 1988 is positively identified”
  1. It’s unsettling to think that the suspect managed to evade justice for over three decades. Hopefully, the victim’s family can find some closure now that he has been positively identified.

  2. It’s horrifying to think that this case remained unsolved for so many years. Finally identifying the suspect brings some closure to the victim’s family and friends. I hope justice will be served.

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