Longtime cold case solved with DNA in Fernandina Beach

Brittany Dionne, First Coast News 11:10 p.m. EST February 26, 2015

On May 15th, 1987, Janet Robinson was found assaulted, beaten, and strangled to death.

Investigators initially identified Hall as a suspect.

"The original officer, Lieutenant Davis was on the right track," Captain Jim Coe said.

The complicated case eventually led away from Hall and he reportedly moved to Colorado. Then the case went cold.

In 1995, Captain Coe took over the case. With a DNA sample that police called 'the only significant evidence left at scene' Coe began to study statements Hall gave to police in 1987.
Retired captain helps solve cold case murder
Author: Heather Leigh, Mobile journalist, hleigh@wjxt.com
Francine Frazier, Web news editor, ffrazier@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 26 2015 07:11:26 PM EST Updated On: Feb 26 2015 11:23:52 PM EST

For nearly 30 years, the murder of a Fernandina Beach woman remained unsolved.

Several investigators tried to crack the cold case over the years but were never able to devote the time to solve it.

But Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley convinced former Fernandina Beach Police Capt. Jim Coe to come out of retirement and work the case -- and that move paid off.

Coe told News4Jax the man who murdered 56-year-old Janet Marie Robinson in 1987 was the police department's top suspect at the time of the killing, but a lack of DNA made it impossible to arrest him for the murder. His name was Jimmy Hall and Coe believes if he had been arrested for previous assaults before Robinson was found dead in her house, her murder could have been prevented.

The murder

On May 15, 1987, Robinson was found brutally raped and strangled in her home on South 10th Street.

According to friends and neighbors, Robinson rarely allowed anyone in her home.

The killer came in the house, most likely uninvited, through an unlocked back door sometime late the night before or early the morning of Robinson's body being found, police said.

The position of Robinson's body and the condition of her clothes suggested a forceful assault in which the killer attempted to pin her to the floor while attacking her, police said.

During the assault, the killer suffocated Robinson in his attempt to overcome her resistance, police said.

“She gave him a fight he wasn't prepared for and it ultimately it ended in him killing her,” Coe said.

DNA that wasn't Robinson's was found on her body but a match was not found in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).