By now, you should know the drill. For quick reference, part 1 is here, and part 2 is here. So, with no further ado, on to the conclusion of Detective Hussey's chapter.
"I ain't killed nobody," he said as he looked at the floor.
'Well then," Janet said. "I'll make you a promise, and if you ask around, you'll find out I'm a woman of my word. The next time you see me, I'll have a first degree murder warrant with your name on it, and that's a promise. Then you'll know you've been got by the best."
"You done?" he asked stubbornly.
"Yup," Janet said as the prisoner was led away.
Several weeks later, a telephone call came to the desk of Detective Franson.
"Good morning, Detective and congratulations, this is Culverson at the FDLE Serology Lab. Your DNA is a 1 in one quadrillion match. There are only 7 billion people on the whole earth, you got your guy."
"Oh my God, thank you for calling," she said.
"I'll send you the report in the mail, just thought you'd like to know," the lab tech said.
As tears streamed down Janet's face, she said through clenched teeth, "Gotcha' you son-of-a-bitch."
Janet retired from the Lakeland Police Department in February of 2000, and she and John moved to Wyoming. It was her dream. Janet opened a successful private investigative agency and she and John built a beautiful ranch home in a valley between two snow-capped mountain ranges.
In June of 2001, the State Attorney's Office from the Tenth Judicial Circuit flew the retired detective back to Lakeland. This time, Attorney Paul Wallace was to present evidence to the Grand Jury, including testimony from their star detective witness, Janet Franson.
On June 12, the Grand Jury unanimously returned a sealed indictment for first degree murder in the death of Anna Luella Houston. On June 13, 2001, a triumphant Detective(Retired) Janet Franson walked into the Avon Park Correctional Institute, where Robert Austin was serving a long sentence for drug trafficking. Austin was led into the small room in handcuffs and seated at a grey, metal table.
"Remember me?" Janet smiled.
The prisoner just grunted.
"Remember what I told you the last time I was here?" she asked.
"I don't forget nuthin'," came the reply.
"Well, here it is, a warrant for your arrest for first degree murder. Now, tell me why you did it."
Austin just stared. "I ain't killed nobody."
"Okay, I got another promise for ya'." She looked across the table at the defendant. Next time you see me, will be in a courtroom when this case goes to trial, and we're gonna' win, and you're gonna' be convicted of first degree murder."
"Is that it?" he asked as he wiped sweat from his forehead.
"That's it," she said, sighing. I sure would have liked to have had the confession, she thought. But I gotcha.
In May of 2006, the State Attorney flew Janet Franson to Polk County Florida again to testify on behalf of the State of Florida. On May 19, 2006 a Polk County Jury of his peers found Robert Austin Jr., now 37 years old, guilty of First Degree Murder in the 1984 death of Anna Houston. As the verdict was read, Detective (Ret.) Franson was unable to hold back the tears. Justice had been done and a senseless death avenged.
Because of the tireless work of one little detective who refused to quit, just because other people said the case was unsolvable, a murderer had been brought to answer for his crimes. The helpless, thoughtful old 'Cookie Lady' could now rest easy in her grave, and the victim's family could finally close this chapter in their lives.
Let's not forget or discount the absolutely stellar work of forensics investigators, Officer Herman Moulden, and Mark Kirksey who carefully collected and catalogued every piece of evidence and every drop of blood. Without them, there would have been no DNA for comparison.
The day before she flew back to her home, she visited an old friend who now rests easy under a white marble marker in one of the City of Lakeland's cemeteries. As she knelt down and placed a flower on the grave, she whispered, "I have to go now Anna, but we got him."
Janet was tired of the garbage when she left. The back biting and nit picking. They made her work for everything she got. Perhaps that made it sweeter. She sure showed a bunch of good-old-boy 'hot-shot' detectives that they weren't as good as they'd thought they were. But she was able, I think, to beat them at their own game. She came out on top, and showed them that integrity, honesty and perseverance, pay off, even if you are under five feet tall.