Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Joseph Zieler

Last night, shortly after 11 p.m., the jury in the Joseph Zieler double homicide cold case recommended a sentence of death for the murders of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and 32- year-old Lisa Story. Zieler was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder by the same jury on May 18, 2023. These murders took place in Cape Coral in 1990 and had officially become cold cases until they were solved by new DNA evidence in 2016.

The State presented four aggravating factors during the penalty phase. The jury determined that all four of those factors were proven beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the murders were cold, calculated and premeditated, and that they were committed in a heinous, atrocious, and cruel manner.

The Honorable Judge Robert Branning set the case for an evidentiary hearing, known as a Spencer hearing, on June 26, 2023. At this hearing the parties can present further evidence and make legal argument as to the sentence. The State will be requesting that the Judge impose a sentence of death.

Assistant State Attorneys Dan Feinberg, Stephanie Russell, and Abe Thornburg prosecuted the case.

State Attorney Amira Fox stated: “I hope the verdict and sentence recommendation have finally brought some sense of justice and closure to the families of Lisa Story and Robin Cornell. I want to thank them for their incredible patience and understanding as we all worked together to bring this case to closure over the years. I also want to thank the Cape Coral
Police Department for never giving up on their investigation of this case. Due to their diligence and perseverance, it was possible to prosecute this case 33 years after the murders occurred.”

Samantha Syoen – Communications Director, State Attorney’s Office