JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News is learning more about the possible conclusion to a 28-year-old murder mystery.
Wednesday morning, James Jackson, 60, made his first appearance in court as an accused child rapist and killer. Tuesday, he was charged with the 1984 sexual battery and murder of 10-year-old Tammy Welch.
Police say Jackson lived next door to the victim at a Westside apartment complex. But they couldn't link him to the crime, until now, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice.
"This Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is committed to solving crimes just like this, even when they've gone cold," said Sheriff John Rutherford. "The grant enabled us to retest evidence from homicides that are literally decades old."
When Welch's case was reopened in 1999, investigators say more evidence was collected, including a DNA sample from Jackson, which they say he offered voluntarily. The case went cold again. But JSO kept the evidence. And when it got the grant last year, it sent all of that evidence to a lab to be reexamined.
Thanks to advances in technology and expanded DNA databases, Jackson was linked to the 1984 crime.
"Without the grant, and without the money to work on this cold case, it could have gone unsolved for another 28 years," said Chief Tom Hackney.
That grant is being used to take a fresh look at 300 local cold cases that occurred from 1990 to 2001. And investigators hope it yields even more positive results.
"We have many other cold cases," said State Attorney Angela Corey. "We're not going to let this be the only one. And we just want the victims of crime to know that we're never going stop working to solve these cases."
It's expensive to retest old evidence. JSO told Action News it costs a minimum of $600 to submit a single piece of evidence to the lab. It costs another $600 to submit a lab comparison, and even more to complete the tests.
Welch's family has since moved out of state. We spent the day trying to contact them. We haven't spoken to them yet. But we did notice on Welch's sister's Facebook page that she thanks investigators for their hard work.
It's never too late to report something you know about a crime. Any details about an unsolved case can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-866-845-TIPS. You will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 if your tip leads to an arrest.