A Big Cold-Case Break, Followed by Disappointment

Suspected murderer of 2 young women in 1973 may not face trial because of dementia
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2020 11:08 AM CDT
A Big Cold-Case Break, Followed by Disappointment
Lynn Seethaler, left, and Janice Pietropola, who were murdered in 1973.   (Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office)

It was one of those cold-case breaks that have become common these days: Thanks to a DNA match, police arrested a suspect last year in the murder of two young women in Virginia Beach in 1973. The families of Janice Pietropola and Lynn Seethaler, two 19-year-olds from suburban Pittsburgh who were vacationing in a rented cottage, thought they'd finally see justice. But as the Virginian-Pilot reports, it now appears that Ernest Broadnax, 82, will never face trial because doctors have diagnosed him with dementia. One of his public defenders says he won't improve, and prosecutors say there's not much they can do.

"There is no justice in this for Janice," Judy Poklemba, Janice's younger sister. "And that just kills us. It absolutely kills us." It's not clear what will happen next with Broadnax, who remains in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center after his arrest in Queens, NY. It's possible he'll end up in a state psychiatric hospital. The brutal murders—Pietropola was also raped—prompted one of the largest investigations in Virginia Beach history before the trail went cold. Pietropola's brother Michael (who's skeptical of the diagnosis) hopes that cold cases will start being a bigger priority in the court system, given that families often wait decades for an arrest. (More cold cases stories.)

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