After five years, 11-year-old Robin Cornell’s accused killer still awaits trial

Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Joseph Zieler Credit: Lee County Sherriff

Five years ago an audience erupted in cheers when the Cape Coral Police Department announced the arrest of Joseph Zieler.

It was a case that took more than 26 years to solve. Back in 1990, investigators say 32-year-old Lisa Story and 11-year-old Robin Cornell were murdered inside their Cape Coral condo. A DNA match connected Zieler to the crime.

“This was an old case but never been looked at as a cold case,” says David Newlan, former Cape Coral police chief.

Five years later, Zieler still sits behind bars awaiting trial. He has written many letters to the judge to show his impatience with the process.

Kevin Shirley, the attorney representing Joseph Zieler, says, “we’re trying to get it set for trial in early 2022.”

Shirley told WINK News that COVID-19 is partly to blame for the wait. “Obviously a great deal of the time has been spent waiting for waiting for covid to run its course because Judge Branning and administration did not feel that it was appropriate for us to be gathering 300 or 400 jurors into a confined area in order to do jury selection.”

Shirley says he has been working on the case for the past five years but says cases like these present a lot of challenges. “The event allegedly occurred in 1990. Many of the witnesses are unavailable, they passed on, they’ve moved, we don’t know where they’re at, they have forgotten what they would have testified to 30 years ago. It just makes it a lot more complicated than when you were litigating one of these cold cases.”

The ongoing case is not only complicated, but it is also painful for the families of the victims too.

Zielers’ trial is set to start in March of next year.

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