St. Petersburg, Florida - On a dreary day 16 months ago in a St. Petersburg neighborhood tears poured down like rain. Paula O'Conner and her one-year-old son Alijah had been murdered inside their home.
And for the victims' relatives during this Christmas season, this was another mother and child in their thoughts. "Each day is tough," says Paula's Uncle Henry Hart. "The emotions that are coming up right now are...they're just very difficult."
But the New Year does bring some relief to this grieving family and detectives. This morning in Putnam County, law enforcement arrested Ralph Wright Junior for the murders.
St. Petersburg Police Major Michael Puetz says of the arrest brings "a lot of satisfaction". Puetz says Wright was arrested without any resistance and that he still denies any involvement in the murders.
Detectives began looking at Wright early on, because of his rocky relationship with Paula. Paula began to correctly suspect that Wright was married. She launched a website calling him a deadbeat dad and a lawsuit to force the Air Force reservist to pay for some of his son Alijah's medical bills.
"Frankly it was helpful," says Puetz of the website. "It was kind of her way to point us in the right direction."
Puetz won't go into detail, but he says investigators found a small amount of Wright's DNA in the house, in such a particular spot, that it ties him directly to the crime scene. Special testing on that DNA is one reason it took so long to make an arrest.
Neighbors of the victims say they're relieved this day finally came. "A feeling of serenity, Happy New Year!" exclaims Roman Seikus who lives on the same street.
For the family the arrest is good news, but it's no salve for their sorrow.
"We're thankful for the arrest," says Hart. "Yet at the same time it's very upsetting to bring all these emotions up again.
Kathryn Bursch, 10 Connects