DNA solves 1985 dementia victim murder, rape

Fort Lauderdale, Florida (AP) — In April 1985, a DNA test arrested a suspect who killed, raped, and kidnapped a 78-year-old woman who wandered from her home with dementia.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday that Richard C. Lange, 61, had been arrested on charges of one murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.

The agency did not disclose the victim’s name, but a 1985 news article identified her as Mildred Massenny. She died 11 days later.

According to state and county records, Lange has a long criminal record, including a conviction for the exacerbation of the assault in 1983 and 1993, and is under probation every time. He was also convicted of weapons in 2006 and 2012 and sentenced to short imprisonment.

In that press release, the sheriff’s office says the murder cold case unit submitted DNA to the state database from the murder last month and Lange appeared as a match. In 1985, Lange was 25 years old and lived in Palm Beach County, records show.

The detective received a warrant to obtain saliva from Lange, who was tested Thursday at his home in Boynton Beach, about 10 miles from where Massenny was kidnapped. His DNA matched the sample again and he was arrested, the sheriff’s office said. He denied any connection to the murder. The judge on Friday ordered him to be detained unsecured.

According to a 1985 article in The Palm Beach Post, Massenny was a widow suffering from dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease. She recently moved from Arkansas to live with her sister in Lake Worth, Florida, but wasn’t allowed to go out alone for fear that she might wander.

However, due to family turmoil, Massenny went out on the afternoon of April 27, 1985. Neighbors saw her walking down the street in the pajamas she found near her when she was discovered by a passerby in Jupiter, Florida, a few hours later.

A video of the sheriff’s office released last year seeking information about the murder said Massenny may have boarded a car with a young man outside a fast-food restaurant. Witnesses told investigators that the man said he was a neighbor and would drive home.

“It’s pretty bad for my grandmother to go out for a walk and be knocked out on a dirt road,” said Lieutenant Marty Kerner of Lakeworth Police in 1985.