WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Almost 28 years after a Jupiter single mom was beaten and strangled to death, a jury on Monday acquitted the man who stood trial for her murder in West Palm Beach.
Todd Campbell, who was indicted by a grand jury in February 2010 for first-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault, is now free to return to his home in southwest Florida. He had been held without bail in the Palm Beach County Jail since his arrest on Jan. 21, 2010, records show.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Campbell for Vickie Long's murder after his DNA was entered into an FBI database in 2009, when authorities in Lee County arrested him on a marijuana possession charge, records show.
Long disappeared the morning of Sept. 10, 1984. A Sheriff's Office helicopter discovered the 27-year-old's body in a wooded area in unincorporated Jupiter after her boyfriend, Don Ingels, reported that she did not return from taking her two Rhodesian Ridgebacks for their usual morning run nearby, according to an arrest report by the Sheriff's Office.
"Vickie Long was brutally beaten to the point where she could not breathe and died," Palm Beach County Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins told the 12-person jury during closing arguments on Friday. "Ladies and gentlemen, that is premeditated murder."
Deputies discovered Long's body clothed in her jogging shorts and top, with grass, semen and signs of assault on her clothing and her vaginal and anal areas, the arrest report said.
Without DNA technology, the case went cold until 2009, when Campbell's DNA profile matched that of semen found on Long's panties in 1984.
Campbell explained the presence of his DNA when he testified on Friday that he and Long had consensual sexual encounters at his home, and Palm Beach County Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey pointed out "murky holes" in the rest of the state's case.
Long's head and neck showed signs of trauma from a blunt object, and an autopsy revealed a broken jaw and broken ribs.
"The anger must have been brimming to do this kind of damage," Ramsey said during her closing statements.
Campbell, who had left the U.S. Coast Guardwith a bum knee, was a 22-year-old, long-haired "pot smoker" living with relatives in Jupiter at the time of Long's murder, Ramsey said. On the other hand, she said, Ingels, who had a black belt in martial arts, was upset that his girlfriend was not ready to marry him and may have had motive to kill Long.
Ingels also changed his story about the morning of Long's death, Ramsey said. At one point, Ingels told police that Long's dogs walked home on their own; at another point, he said he brought them back from where he found them near Long's abandoned car.
"I think the jury weighed the evidence very carefully," Ramsey said after the verdict was announced on Monday afternoon. "I think justice was done."
Vickie's sister, Julie Snyder, who attended much of the trial with other family members, said she can at least find comfort in the facts that came out during the eight-day trial.
"We feel like we now know what happened," she said.
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