NEW PORT RICHEY — If John Wayne Folds is what deputies say he is, a killer, then he's been on the lam for 27 years.
The 45-year-old self-employed painter was arrested Tuesday morning at his home on Jenner Drive and charged with murdering a man in Seattle in 1983. The cold case squad at the King County Sheriff's Office got a DNA hit on evidence left at the scene, which led them to Folds.
"These cases are never closed. They are never forgotten," said Sgt. John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff's Office, "and we are going to do everything we can to solve them."
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On Feb. 15, 1983, a 36-year-old man named Frank Kuony Jr. was found stabbed to death in his room at a Motel 6 near the Seattle-Tacoma airport. He was a businessman in town from San Francisco.
His flight landed about 3 a.m.
He checked into his hotel at 3:45 a.m.
His body was found at 9:30 a.m. by a maid.
It was a very bloody scene, Urquhart said. Stabbing isn't like shooting someone from a distance. It's a brutal, "up close and personal" crime, he said.
Kuony's luggage and briefcase had been ransacked.
"It looks like robbery was a possible motive," said Detective Scott Tomkins of the King County cold case squad.
Urquhart said Kuony's wallet and rental car keys were found between the mattress and box spring of the bed — as though he put them there because he didn't trust whoever was in the room with him.
In 1983, all trails ran cold. Witnesses saw Kuony chatting with a younger man on the flight and at the car rental shop. But flight manifests were spotty. Travelers didn't have to give the identification they do now. Detectives never pinned down a name.
The airport motel area was known for prostitution. That was one theory.
"Did he pick up a hooker and the hooker managed to stab him?" Urquhart said. "There was no clear indication one way or the other."
They got a composite sketch of the suspect from the clerk at the car rental shop.
And they kept several cigarette butts found in the room.
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Deputies responded in 2002 to a call of a suspicious person walking around the Pinellas Trail after hours.
They found Folds, who told them he was out jogging, although he was in jeans and a coat, documents state. He had gloves, cutting instruments and flashlights in his pockets. He was sweating and shaking, records state. Deputies linked him to stolen guns, clothes, tools and a truck, which came from a home Folds said he thought was abandoned.
Folds pleaded guilty that year to burglary. He got five years' probation and his DNA was filed into the system.
Until Tuesday, that was his only arrest in Florida.
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In November, the cold case squad got a call from an analyst that they got a hit — the DNA from the cigarette butts was a match for Folds.
"I'm just glad," said Tomkins, the cold case detective. The squad has only been in existence for 18 months and was formed with the help of a U.S. Department of Justice grant. This is the squad's first arrest. They've closed other cases, but those crimes were so old that suspects had since died.
"It's frustrating," Tomkins said. So, he's happy for the arrest.
"I wish we had more of them," he said.
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It's strange for M.J. Griffith to talk about her brother because she rarely has since he died. Her parents shut down at any mention of Frank Kuony Jr., so Griffith learned to not speak his name.
"With his passing, a large chunk of the family was gone," said Griffith, who lives in California.
It was just the two siblings. He was the eldest and the star of the family, she said. He was handsome and successful and popular.
"My brother was the light of my mother's life," she said. "She never was the same afterward."
Her mother died in April 2008. After that, her father dug out all of the photos of Kuony that had been stashed away for all those years and had them enlarged, along with photos of his late wife, and put them on the mantle.
"He stared at them for six months," Griffith said.
Her father died in September 2008. On the table next to his chair was a file with all of the old newspaper clippings about Kuony's murder.
Griffith is thankful there's been an arrest. She just believes it's two years too late.
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Folds will be charged with second-degree murder. He is being held without bail at the Pasco County jail as he awaits extradition back to Washington state.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.