DNA testing could give new insight into Tommy Zeigler case

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A new decision by the state attorney’s office could give a man who’s spent more than four decades on death row for a quadruple murder a chance at freedom.

Tommy Zeigler was convicted of killing his wife, her parents and a customer at the family’s Winter Garden furniture store in 1975.

Zeigler was first scheduled to be executed in 1982, but that was stayed because of new evidence.

READ: DNA evidence could exonerate man on death row for 40 years, defense attorneys say

He was scheduled again for execution in 1986 and that was stayed due to inadequate representation.

Then in 1988 his death sentence was overturned, but after resentencing he once again faced the death penalty.

Zeigler’s case was denied various types of DNA analysis in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

READ: Advocates keep swinging for death row inmate

But now more than four decades after the crime, the newly elected state attorney has given her blessing to the DNA tests.

But first a judge has to sign off, and then the DNA, including blood and fingernail clippings will be sent to a lab.

When those results come back, we could finally know if that DNA backs up Zeigler’s claim that he didn’t do, and someone else did.

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Zeigler called police after the slayings saying it was an attempted robbery by a customer and others.

Prosecutors said Zeigler’s motive for the murders was the life insurance policies taken out on his wife months prior.

Zeigler’s attorneys said they will pay for the testing, which could run about $25,000 to $30,000.

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His attorney’s hope is that the evidence is so convincing that Zeigler’s sentence would be vacated and he would become a free man.

If not, they could file the evidence to the court to support a motion for a new trial.

Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.