Taking stand in own defense, man denies strangling Jupiter woman in 1984

WEST PALM BEACH —

At first, Todd Campbell told the detectives he didn't recognize the dead woman in the picture.

It was 2009, more than 25 years after Vickie Lynne Long, 27, was found raped and strangled in a wooded area near the Jupiter street where she and Campbell were neighbors.

Campbell recalled the incident Friday while on the stand in his own defense for the single mother's murder.

"When he told you that your DNA had been found on a dead woman, what did you say?" Campbell's defense attorney, Elizabeth Ramsey, asked him Friday of his conversation with a detective.

"I said you're absolutely nuts," Campbell said.

He said he eventually remembered Long as a neighbor and occasional sex partner who he had last slept with shortly before she was killed. Campbell told the group of 12 jurors, who began deliberations in his case Friday, that he had nothing to do with Long's death.

Prosecutor Barbara Burns made it clear when it was her time to question the 50-year-old former Jupiter man that she found his story — with claims that he heard nothing about Long's 1984 murder until a week after it happened — highly implausible.

"It was the news of that entire community for weeks on end, wasn't it?" Burns asked Campbell.

Campbell, who was 22 at the time of Long's murder, said he didn't read newspapers or watch television back then.

Prosecutors say Long's boyfriend, Don Ingles, called police when Long never came back from taking her dogs for a run along Indian Creek Parkway on Sept. 10, 1984.

Authorities eventually uncovered her badly beaten, strangled body and scrambled to find leads leading to her killer. But even after rampant news and television reports and a police reenactment, nothing came up and the case grew cold.

Campbell was never a suspect until 2009, when authorities in Lee County arrested him on another case. Investigators collected DNA from Campbell at that time, and it matched DNA taken from semen collected from Long's body.

Ramsey told jurors in her closing arguments Friday that there was reason to believe that Ingles, not Campbell, was the one responsible for Long's murder. Ingles was upset because Long didn't want to marry him, Ramsey said.

The DNA evidence only proved at most a sexual encounter that could not be definitively linked to either a rape or a murder, Ramsey said, urging jurors to concentrate on what she said were flaws in the case.

"Other than the DNA, there is not a single piece of evidence unless you want to see the face of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, unless that's just what you want to believe," Ramsey said.

Burns, however, stressed again to jurors her beliefs that Campbell's story just didn't add up. She questioned why Campbell never brought up his alleged sexual relationship with Long at the time police questioned him in 2009 and 2010, the year they finally arrested him.

Campbell said he eventually told a detective about it and offered to take a lie-detector test, but the detective declined. In his testimony Friday, Campbell also said he never told authorities about his interaction with Long in 1984 because he feared it would get him in trouble.

"That's like putting my neck in the noose," he said. "I knew I didn't do anything wrong, but I knew I didn't have any information to give them, so I wasn't going to put my neck in there."

Campbell now faces up to life in prison if convicted. Jurors in the case went home without a verdict Friday and will resume deliberations next week.

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