BROOKSVILLE — The trail never really went cold, even after 18 months of interviews, second interviews, public pleas for help and an investigation that reached several dead ends.
Then came an improbable break: the name of a distant relative from Tampa came up during yet another round of interviews. Detectives summoned the teenager to their Brooksville office for a meeting and pressed him hard for some information.
That's how Hernando investigators finally discovered how Patrick and Evelyn DePalma were stabbed to death in their Masaryktown home in 2006.
David Alexander Bostick, 18, was charged Friday with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the DePalmas, a couple whom he sometimes referred to as "Uncle Pat" and "Aunt Evelyn." Detectives also were questioning two other men linked to the case.
Bostick, who was a juvenile at the time of the stabbings, is being held without bond.
"We were just going back through tips and info," said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. "… That interview led to enough probable cause that he was involved with this case."
Back in Tampa, at the end of a cul-de-sac of townhomes in the 16000 block of Parkstone Place Court, Bostick's parents refused to comment about the arrest.
"I never would have thought that about him," said Cameron May, 20, who lives across the street from the Bosticks.
Bostick, a senior at Freedom High School, sometimes goes by the name "Alex." He has no prior arrests or history of traffic violations, according to a search of local and state records.
Authorities know that Bostick was the great-great-nephew of Patrick and Evelyn DePalma, and that's how they believe he and two other unidentified men were able to get into the couple's secluded home in rural Masaryktown on the night of Oct. 28, 2006.
According to the police report, Bostick agreed that night to join two male friends in running some errands. They ended up at the DePalmas' home, and Bostick and another person, whom the DePalmas also knew, were let into the home.
Bostick and the two individuals with him sat and talked to the couple, authorities said, then one of them asked Bostick to retrieve a phone from the car.
When Bostick returned, the DePalmas were dead, stabbed numerous times, and one of the men was yelling at the other about his temper. Bostick told detectives he noticed one of the men had been carrying a large fixed-blade knife in a sheath. Bostick surveyed the grisly scene and vomited into a sink, according to the report.
The other two began ransacking the house and Bostick eventually joined them, investigators said. Bostick carried out a garbage bag full of the DePalmas' belongings, which included a vacuum cleaner, a rifle, a stereo and other items, and placed them in the trio's car.
Detectives linked Bostick to the scene through his interview and surveillance photos from a nearby gas station where the trio stopped minutes after leaving the DePalmas' home. Black said detectives are interviewing the other suspects and verifying information.
"We know who these people are," Black said. "… It's an ongoing investigation."
News of the arrest came as a much-needed relief to the DePalmas' eldest granddaughter, Sonsee Sanders, who lives in nearby Brooksville.
"The Sheriff's Office has put in lots of tireless work," she said. "They have never given up hope."
Along the winding dirt road that runs past the DePalmas' still-vacant home on Korbus Road, most of the residents were still coming to grips with the brutal murder that ruined their sense of security. The Sheriff's Office was recently handing out fliers that read: "Please help us solve this horrible double murder in Masaryktown. Any information is needed!"
"I wish they would let the community do to (the suspects) what they did to the DePalmas," said June Weber, who lived next door to the couple.
But even after death, there is life: Sanders and her husband adopted a baby boy this week.
The couple named him James Patrick to honor the great-grandfather he will never know.
Times reporter Jared Leone and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.