HONOLULU (KHON2) — On November 3, 1994, a female was found dead in her Waikiki apartment.
Reports indicated that 37-year-old Lisa Fracassi was strangled to death.
But who was responsible for this tragedy remained a mystery for nearly three decades.
“Some of the challenges are we didn’t have the technology way back when — when these cases happen,” said Sheryl Sunia, Hawaii Pacific University Professor.
Sunia is a former Honolulu Police Department detective who has seen hundreds of cases in her 28 years in the homicide detail, including Fracassi’s.
“You read the reports, sometimes you have to contact the witnesses that were interviewed a long time ago, because maybe they didn’t say something. maybe they were afraid to say something,” said Sunia. “Sometimes it can be very disappointing that you’re not solving crime right away. But the few additional steps that you take could be very important.”
While the initial investigation by the HPD was extensive, detectives were unable to find a suspect in Fracassi’s case until March of 2021. DNA and fingerprint samples collected from the scene finally led to a suspect named Cecil Trent.
However, police said the 57-year-old suspect died in 2013. Trent was said to be the primary and likely only suspect.
“When someone dies, their fingerprints are taken,” Sunia explained. “So for identification purposes, we are able to ID them through fingerprints. So if the fingerprints came back on that, then I would think in a sequence of events, they would request DNA sample to confirm.”
DNA experts told KHON2 that advancement in technology has propelled law enforcement into cracking cold cases.
What they do is rehydrate that DNA, and they make it easier to test gives it more quantity. In layman’s terms, and so they have more amount to test where 10 years ago or five years ago, the same DNA samples would not yield what it does today.Debra Allen, 808Investigations Genetic Genealogist
When one case closes, work begins on solving the next. Sunia said years of work are worth it when you’re able to bring justice to light.
But the work doesn’t stop. HPD is still looking into many other cold cases.
The HPD launched the A’ole Poina (Never Forgotten) project in 2018 to review all of its cold cases that date back to the 1960s.
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