FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Jurors in southwest Florida have recommended the death penalty for a man convicted of killing an 11-year-old girl and her babysitter more than 30 years ago.
The Lee County jury voted 10-2 in favor of death for Joseph Zieler on Wednesday night after about five hours of deliberations, according to court records. The same panel found Zieler, 60, guilty last week of two counts of first-degree murder.
A judge will make the final decision in whether Zieler will be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison following a June 26 hearing. Florida law had previously required a unanimous jury recommendation for a convicted murderer to face the death penalty, but a new law signed last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis requires only an 8-4 vote in favor of execution.
Zieler was jailed on an unrelated assault charge in 2016 when his DNA matched to the cold-case murders of Robin Cornell, 11, and Lisa Story, 32, authorities said.
The girl and the woman were found in a Cape Coral apartment in May 1990, officials said. Robin’s mother had been out for the night and discovered the suffocated bodies when she returned the next morning. Investigators said both victims were sexually assaulted.
Cape Coral is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Tampa.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.