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Orange County deputies arrest suspect in 30-year-old murder case

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County deputies say they’ve solved a 30-year-old murder.

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They say now 64–year-old Ronald Cates killed a local maintenance worker in August, 1992.

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According to court documents, Cates was in a hospital in North Carolina when he told staff there he killed his friend John Stagner in Florida.

Deputies say Cates frequently visited the maintenance facility where Stagner lived and worked to borrow tools.. It’s also where Stagner was found murdered by his wife early on the morning of August 10, 1992.

“Our deputies responded to North Forsythe Road where they found 53-year-old John Stagner deceased,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said at a press conference announcing Cates’ arrest. ”He had head and facial trauma.”

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, there was always speculation from the families of both men that Cates was the killer.

Investigators say Cates had a drug problem and would sell the tools he borrowed from Stagner for cash.

According to the sheriff’s office, Stagner confronted Cates about the tools just before his wife found him dead.

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“At the time when detectives started investigating this, they went to the Cates home and one of the daughters was visibly shaking and said he wasn’t home,” Detective Kevin Wilson explained. “Later on, detectives learned Mr. Cates was hiding under the house that day.”

28 years later in a hospital in North Carolina, Cates confessed to the crime, first to staff, then to police in an interview captured on body camera video.

He’s been jailed since then while the sheriff’s office builds its case.

“There was enough evidence at that point to go up and interview Mr. Cates again and charge him with our homicide here in Florida,” Detective Wilson said.

Cates remains jailed in North Carolina, awaiting extradition.

There are still more than 500 open cold cases in Orange County dating back to 1941.

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Their full-time cold case team has solved 13 of those since 2020.

They’re currently reviewing more than 40 more cases in which modern technology could be used to test existing evidence for new clues.

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Q Mccray

Q McCray, WFTV.com

Q McCray is an award-winning general assignment reporter.

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