Authorities have announced the identification and arrest of a suspect in Mississippi linked to the death of an elderly woman nearly 36 years ago in Florida.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Michael Lapniewski, Jr., 55, is accused of the murder of 82-year-old Opal Weil, who was found dead in St. Petersburg on February 9, 1987. Weil’s body was discovered by her sister-in-law, who grew concerned after failed attempts to reach her by phone.
According to officials, Lapniewski allegedly entered Weil’s home by removing a windowpane. Detectives noted that the phone line had been severed, and forensic experts collected various pieces of evidence, including strands of hair.
During the investigation, a partial DNA profile was developed from the hair found at the crime scene, but no matches were initially identified. However, in December 2020, cold case detectives from the sheriff’s office were assigned to the case and requested new testing on the recovered hairs. In addition, genealogical testing conducted through Parabon Nanolabs helped construct a family tree, leading to the identification of potential relatives.
After an extensive investigation, which narrowed down the search to three male individuals, Lapniewski emerged as the primary suspect. He resided just half a mile away from the location of the murder at that time, as determined by the detectives.
Tracking the suspect to his current residence in Waveland, Mississippi, detectives obtained a DNA sample from Lapniewski. The results confirmed a match between Lapniewski’s DNA profile and the profile developed from the evidence collected at the crime scene.
As a result of the diligent multiyear investigation, Lapniewski was apprehended by Mississippi authorities and subsequently extradited to Florida, where he now faces a first-degree murder charge in connection with Opal Weil’s tragic death.