CLEARWATER — An Alabama man linked by DNA evidence to a 1986 Clearwater murder nearly three decades after the killing changed his story about a half-dozen times during interrogation, according to an arrest affidavit obtained Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times.
Speaking this winter with Florida detectives at the Shelby County (Ala.) Sheriff's Office, Stephen Manning Lamont went from denying any connection to Clearwater or the November 1986 rape and strangling death of Janet Louise Staschak, to saying he discovered her already dead, to admitting he killed her and cleaned up the crime scene, to saying he dated her and accidentally asphyxiated her during an "auto-erotic" sex act.
Lamont, 58, was booked Tuesday morning into the Pinellas County Jail, where he is being held without bail following his extradition from Alabama. He is charged with one count of first-degree murder.
The break in the case came after Clearwater Police Department detectives, who routinely submit cold case evidence to local, state and national DNA databases, learned in December 2011 that old vaginal swabs and fingernail clippings in the Staschak case matched Lamont.
Lamont served time in an Alabama prison from 1986 to 1998 on a robbery conviction, records show. However, during his first year in prison, Lamont and four other inmates escaped.
It was during those five years on the lam that, authorities said, Lamont lived in Clearwater under the alias "Keith Minchew" and crossed paths with Staschak.
Staschak, 25, was a cake decorator at the Kash n' Karry grocery store. When she failed to show up at work two days in a row, worried friends contacted management at York Apartments, 903 S Greenwood Ave., who contacted police.
Authorities discovered an opening cut into a rear window screen and Staschak's nude body lying prone in bed, a blue sheet pulled up to her neck and clues that her wrists and ankles had been bound with duct tape, documents show.
Police initially arrested a neighbor, Tom Franklin Sawyer, who confessed to the killing during a 16-hour interrogation. But the case was thrown out after psychologists in 1988 testified that the admission was coerced by detectives' threats and lies about non-existent evidence that Sawyer was convinced he didn't remember because of his history of blackouts, the Times reported.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.