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Detectives solve cold cases in Livingston Parish

POSTED: Friday, February 26, 2010 - 2:33pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:00pm

Livingston Parish Sheriff detectives are crediting DNA evidence with helping them solve two separate cold cases each more than a decade old.

Detectives say 42-year-old Mark Lewis shot and killed 31-year-old Janet Parker Benoit 17 years ago, but they weren't able to connect him to the murder until this month.

They say a family member of Lewis turned the gun used in the murder over to police.

Ballistics testing coupled with DNA samples already taken from the murder scene led to Lewis' arrest.

It was the same story for 36-year-old Desmond Lewis.

Detectives say he kidnapped and raped a 16-year-old girl on Hatchel Lane in Denham Springs back in 1997, but they couldn't arrest him until State Police uncovered old DNA evidence.

"It was technology, it was good evidence keeping, good police work," says Livingston Parish Sheriff Willie Graves. "You can have any two of those three items and you're probably not gonna get a conviction, you're not gonna get an arrest but when you combine all three, these things can happen."

Mark Lewis confessed to murdering Benoit.

He is already serving a life sentence at Angola Prison for the 2007 murder of Kaitlin Aydell.

Desmond Lewis has yet to officially confess to the rape.