This 1998 murder remained unsolved, until 'killer' applied for job
In 1998, a woman was found murdered at a consignment store in Florida, United States. The police found trails of blood that didn't belong to the victim, Sondra Better, but no trace of the killer, who had seemingly fled with the murder weapon. The case went cold until, 21 years later, one Todd Barket applied for a job that required him to submit fingerprints.
Better (68) worked at Lu Shay's Consignment Boutique, Delray Beach, Florida. On August 24, 1998, two teenagers found the store open beyond closing time, and spotted Better in a pool of blood, dead. She had been stabbed and bludgeoned. She also tried fighting off the killer, who left a trail of their own blood. The killer then fled after stealing cash from the register.
Better had worked at Lu Shay's for 10 years, and would have retired soon. She was planning to renew her wedding vows with her husband of 50 years on their anniversary. Her husband, Zeke Better, died in 2015 awaiting justice. Better is survived by her three daughters.
The police had found an empty cake cutter box (Better was plausibly stabbed with a cake cutter) and two decorative marble balls, covered in Better's blood, near the body. A third marble ball, part of the same set, was found placed atop a glass table, and it had a fingerprint. The police ran the killer's blood and fingerprints through a nationwide database, but to no avail.
The police worked off a possible description of the suspect from a witness: A tall, blonde, slender, white man. In 2000, The Sun-Sentinel reported that 37 suspects were investigated, including a man who visited a hospital with a cut on his hand on the night of the murder, and another who visited the store frequently to inquire about the murder. None matched the killer's DNA.
Two decades after the murder, as the Better family's hope to find justice waned, 51-year-old Todd Barket applied for a job at a Florida nursing home in December last year. Barket was required to submit his fingerprints to the Agency for Healthcare Administration for a routine background check, which led the police right to him. The fingerprints matched, and later, so did the DNA.
At the time of the murder, Barket was aged 29 and lived in a mobile home near Lantana, roughly 10 miles from Delray Beach. He was never a suspect and as per state criminal records, did not have any previous Florida felony arrests.
On March 27, two Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrested him from his Brandon apartment in suburban Tampa. According to The Palm Beach Post, when the detective told him he was under arrest for the '98 murder, Barket shrugged and said, "OK." He was charged with first-degree murder and robbery. On August 19, the trial began in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
Meanwhile, Barket's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh, told the 14-person jury about shoddy police work, alleging "failure in the processing of the crime scene." However, Assistant State Attorney Richard Clausi argued, "There is no other explanation for his blood being everywhere the killer's blood and robber's blood would be." Clausi added, "Blood can tell a compelling story, even 21 years later."