Ernest Broadnax, 80, was arrested Monday by police in New York and charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of rape.
The deaths occurred in 1973, when Lynn Seethaler and Janice Pietropola, both 19, were vacationing in a Virginia Beach oceanfront motel cottage. Their deaths were ruled homicides by the Virginia State Medical Examiner’s Office.
For years, Virginia police followed leads, but to no end. The cottage where the violent deaths occurred was demolished and new motels and shops were built in its place.
“Unfortunately, the case turned cold after exhaustive measures failed to positively identify a suspect,” the police report said, adding that the case was then handed over to the department’s Cold Case unit.
Investigators said they began following a strong lead last fall with the help of the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which led them to Broadnax.
Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera told reporters Wednesday the cold case is the oldest the department has ever solved.
“We finally brought it to conclusion, to give closure to the detectives back in the day who worked the case, to give closure to the family members who are still around and to make sure this individual is held accountable for his actions,” Cervera said.
The families of both women were notified as were investigators who’d worked the original case. Cervera said it was personally satisfying to notify the former detectives.
“They were elated we were able to bring this case to a [close],” he said. “These detectives here take a lot of this personally, they take it home with them. They live with them and when they retire they say what’s the one thing you wish? I wish I could have solved.”
For the families, he said it brought closure and reopened old wounds.
Cervera said he couldn’t reveal much about the investigation other than to say the arrest was made due to advancements in technology and continual resubmission of evidence.
“I’m just going to say it was the advancement in the technology that wasn’t available X-number of years ago,” he said.
This is the fourth case the department’s Cold Case Division has solved, Cervera said, adding that investigators have also resolved nine rape cases dating back to the 1980s.