Aventura - Sunny Isles

He was beaten to death with a statue. Now cops use DNA technology to try and solve crime

Aventura police Major Michael Bentolila talks about how DNA phenotyping helped the department come up with these "appearance models" of a suspect in the 2001 homicide of Irving Sicherer, who was 78 when he was found bludgeoned to death in his Waterview apartment. Aventura police released the DNA phenotyping results on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.
Aventura police Major Michael Bentolila talks about how DNA phenotyping helped the department come up with these "appearance models" of a suspect in the 2001 homicide of Irving Sicherer, who was 78 when he was found bludgeoned to death in his Waterview apartment. Aventura police released the DNA phenotyping results on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

A decade ago, Aventura police flirted with the latest in technology to try and unravel what was then the city’s only unsolved murder. But videos on Youtube and MySpace showing a blurry close-up of the man police believe killed 78-year-old Irving Sicherer proved fruitless.

Hop-scotch a decade and police are at it again. This time, using DNA collected from the crime scene to create a profile of what the killer would look like today, 16 years later — from his hair color to the shape of his facial features to even his ancestral background.

This is what they have come up with: There’s a 90 percent chance he has fair skin. The odds of his eyes being blue or green are about 85 percent. They’re certain his hair is blondish or light brown and almost 90 percent sure he doesn’t have freckles.

The odds of him being from the northeast of Europe — 91.92 percent.

“We have a face, but no name,” Aventura Detective Tom Mundy said during a briefing with the media Tuesday afternoon. “All we need is one solid lead.”

Reached in Palm Beach Gardens, Sicherer’s daughter said she was surprised to hear from Aventura police.

“I have to be very honest,” Beverly Sicherer said, “I’ve lost hope. But you know, when the phone rings…”

Police acknowledge that DNA profiling isn’t full-proof. For example, there’s no way of telling from the DNA if the man who killed Sicherer has bleached his hair or how long it is, or even what he weighs.

It’s also not clear just how many major crimes have been solved using DNA profiling. Two years ago, police rolled out the same technology to try and solve a series of rapes in Coral Gables, Miami and Miami Beach. The rapist still hasn’t been caught.

Still, police say the profile created from the DNA is simply a snapshot and another chance to keep one of the city’s most sensational murders in the headlines.

Sicherer was found beaten to death on the 16th floor of his Waterview apartment on July 25, 2001. The bloody statue used to crush his skull was next to him. His maroon 1994 Lincoln Mark VIII was stolen, but later recovered. Police never found his Rolex.

Mundy said he considers the murder a crime of passion, but hasn’t been able to prove it yet: “There was some rage in there.”

Aventura police said Tuesday that Sicherer’s family has moved from South Florida.

Miami New Times ran a story on the murder in 2009. The story claimed police had a strand of DNA from a Michigan inmate who might be the murderer’s brother, but that authorities in Michigan wouldn’t give the man’s name because of privacy issues.

Aventura police corroborated the Michigan inmate story on Tuesday, but refused to say how they found the DNA sample.

Beverly Sicherer said her dad was born in Brooklyn and moved to Miami Beach in 1967. After his wife died in 1995, he lived an edgier lifestyle, sometimes taking home younger men. Aventura police are working on the assumption that Sicherer’s murderer was homeless and likely a male prostitute.

“I guess after all of the years of not living the life you want, you overdo it,” she said Tuesday.

She wasn’t quite on board with the new DNA technology. She said the picture of a man with short blondish hair and light eyes and nothing else unusual, could be just about anyone.

Instead, she said, police should be more focused on two features of the suspect that were released at the time of the murder: His hunched walk, captured on video from an Aventura Publix, and a tattoo or birthmark on his right arm.

“I thought it was very non-descript,” she said. “It looked like any man.”

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