Defendant Takes Plea Deal in 40-Year-Old Case

November 22, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

A cold case is a crime that has not yet been fully resolved and is not the subject of a current criminal investigation. Cold cases can include unsolved murders, long-term missing persons or unidentified persons, undetermined deaths, and open sexual assault cases. With the creation of new technology, detectives work towards piecing together cold cases to hopefully charge the alleged person responsible for said crime.

A case in Florida that had gone cold for nearly 40 years has now been resolved. The defendant accused of the murder has just accepted a plea deal. This article will provide details about the case and how it finally got resolved.

What was the Case?

Nearly 40 years ago in 1983, Carla Lowe, 21, was beaten to death and run over by a car. Lowe’s body was later found on a road close to the Delray Beach train station. Police reported that Lowe’s body had been beaten so badly that her family had to hold a closed-casket funeral.

Lowe’s younger sister, Jacqueline Lowe-Repass, was supposed to have gone to the train station that night with her. However, she changed her mind at the last second. “She was everything,” Repass said of her older sister. “She was my best friend, my best friend.”

On the same day that authorities recovered Lowe’s body, Williams had been arrested on unrelated charges. Williams was later investigated in connection with the murder while he was in prison. Court records show that his fellow inmates told on Williams after he allegedly admitted to the murder while behind bars.

Police searched Williams’ home at the time of the murder. Inside the house they found a chunk of bloody, red hair. However, there were never any charges pressed on Williams, and the case went cold for decades.

New Technology for DNA Testing

The case remained cold until 2005, when the case was reopened by detectives for DNA testing due to new technology. The 2005 testing did not help with providing a lead, so the case was once again closed.

In February 2021, new technology was used once again to look for DNA prints from the crime scene evidence. Detectives were able to extract a fingerprint from a butter knife that was found with Lowe’s body. The fingerprint was a match to Williams’. In November 2021, Williams was indicted by a grand jury for the murder of Carla Lowe.

Plea Deal Accepted

On November 15th, 2022, Williams accepted a plea deal at the Palm Beach County Court. The plea deal reduced his charges from first-degree murder to manslaughter with a weapon. The court sentenced him to a year in prison, plus 10 years of probation. However, Williams already had time credited with a year served, so once he accepted the plea deal, he was released.

Only one day earlier, Williams first rejected the plea deal in court and instead filed a motion to request a new court-appointed defense attorney. The motion was denied by the judge. Williams stated that he would just hire his own attorney but changed his mind the following day.

Now that Williams has accepted the plea deal, he is expected to be released on probation.


For Lowe’s family, the plea deal is a conclusion to the decades-long search for justice. Although the agreed sentence is not exactly what the victim’s family hoped for, they can accept what unfolded as an “imperfect form of justice.”

“I fully understand where the state of Florida is coming from when they offered what they offered because the reality is it’s like a chess game with anything,” said Lowe’s nephew, Danny Cogdill.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg gave the following statement following the plea deal:

“Today’s guilty plea and sentence, while imperfect, hopefully provides a measure of justice for the family of homicide victim Carla Lowe in this nearly 40-year-old cold case. I want to thank prosecutor Aleathea McRoberts and detectives from Delray Beach Police for the hard work that led to the conviction of Ralph Williams.”

When Williams first rejected the plea deal, Repass and the rest of Lowe’s family felt frustrated. However, a few hours later they received the phone call that Williams changed his mind and decided to take the deal.

“In a perfect world, I would have liked him to be brought to trial in 1983 and put to death for what he did to her,” Repass said. “But no, he lived 39 years while she didn’t.”

How Newer Technology is Used as a Defense in Criminal Cases

Although the case mentioned above ended with the defendant taking a plea deal, there are instances where newer technology can also be used for innocent defendants who are wrongfully convicted. For example, in the Robert DuBoise case in which the defendant was exonerated from rape and murder after new DNA evidence revealed the incriminating bite mark on the victim did not belong to DuBoise.

New DNA technology provided the evidence to free DuBoise from the wrongful conviction, making him the 30th person in the state of Florida to get exonerated after receiving the death penalty sentence.

Florida has the “Clean Hands” law which is meant to compensate wrongfully incarcerated defendants. Under Florida Statute section 961.01, it explains that a wrongfully incarcerated person who meets the definition of “entitled to compensation” can receive compensation pursuant to statute 961.06.

To find out more about the Clean Hands Law, read our page here.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Criminal charges can follow you for the rest of your life. Getting convicted of a crime can lead to harsh consequences, such as imprisonment and expensive fines. If you or a loved one find yourselves accused of a crime in the state of Florida, it is in your best interest to seek out legal help.

A strong criminal defense attorney will work with you to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience representing clients across the state for various charges. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top