36 years later, Mississippi man charged in brutal murder of Florida woman

Published 10:45 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

An arrest has been made in a 36-year-old Florida murder case thanks to advancements in DNA testing, which led investigators to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

WLOX in Biloxi reports that Michael Lapniewski Jr., 55, of Waveland, has been charged in the 1987 death of 82-year-old Opal Weil in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Lapniewski was arrested on Jan. 26, 2023, in Waveland and was extradited to Florida.

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For 36 years, investigators have been searching for Weil’s killer.

On Feb. 9, 1987, deputies were called to a St. Petersburg home after a family member found Weil dead.

Weil’s lifeless body showed obvious signs of trauma, officials said.

At the time, investigators said the killer had broken into the home by removing a single windowpane, and that the home’s telephone line had been cut.

Forensic technicians had developed a partial DNA profile from several hairs that had been collected as evidence, but no match had been found.

In December 2020, after the case had sat unsolved for several decades, additional testing of the hairs collected at the crime scene was requested by cold case detectives at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

The new DNA evidence helped detectives narrow the list of possible suspects to three men. Detectives were able to exclude two of the suspects, leaving Lapniewski as the primary suspect.

In 1987, Lapniewski lived close to the house where Weil was found dead. In 2020, Lapniewski lived in Waveland.

Investigators were able to obtain Lapniewski’s DNA and confirm that it matched the DNA profile from the evidence collected at the crime scene.

Lapniewski is currently held in the Pinellas County Jail without bond, awaiting trial.