Investigation Discovery’s ‘Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death – Truth, Lies, and Redemption’ is an episode that chronicles a 1986 murder case, along with its brutal and baffling aftermath. Confessions, wrongful accusations, and a tenacious detective’s refusal to let the cold case go — this matter has it all. Fortunately, though, it has a satisfying ending. So now, if you’re curious to know all the nitty-gritty details about the same, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Janet Staschak Die?
Born on February 22, 1961, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Janet Staschak, also known as “Space Monkey” for her friends and loved ones, lived a good life in Clearwater, Florida, when it was snatched away from her in the blink of an eye. At the age of 25, she worked at the Kash n’ Karry grocery store as a cake decorator. Thus, when she failed to show up for her job two days in a row without prior information, it raised alarms for her colleagues and employers, leading them to call her apartment manager.
The manager of York Apartments, a complex in South Greenwood Avenue, subsequently contacted the authorities, who discovered Janet’s dead body on her bed inside her flat on November 3, 1986. As per her autopsy report, she was strangled and sexually assaulted, with her official cause of death being asphyxiation. Janet was naked, a window screen of her place had been slashed open, her purse was missing, and her vehicle was found abandoned in the parking garage of the local airport.
Who Killed Janet Staschak?
Despite all the evidence pointing towards a robbery gone wrong at the surface, the detectives were convinced that Janet Staschak was killed by someone she knew and that her assailant had staged the burglary in an attempt to throw them off. Days later, they identified him as Tom Sawyer, Janet’s then 33-year-old neighbor. When interrogated, he gave officers no alibi for where he was on the night of the murder, and in the 16 hours he spent with them in that closed room, he confessed.
During Tom’s subsequent pre-trial hearings, psychologists testified that his confession was coerced. They argued that investigators didn’t allow him to sleep, kept him hungry, and even threatened him with lies about non-existent evidence until he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit. A judge threw out the confession, along with the strand of hair recovered from the crime scene submitted as evidence as it couldn’t be tied to Tom. Therefore, all the charges against him were dropped in 1990.
As a result, Janet’s case went cold until DNA from the scene was submitted into the national database in late 2013. On January 2, 2014, the genetic evidence was positively matched to one Stephen Manning Lamont, a 57-year-old Alabama native. Upon looking into him, officials learned that he had been sentenced to jail time in an Alabama State Prison from 1986 to 1998 on a robbery charge. However, during that first year, he had escaped, along with four other inmates, and had made his way to Clearwater.
Within weeks, Clearwater Police personnel traveled to Stephen’s home in Montevallo, Alabama, to interrogate him, where he initially denied both the accusation and being in the city. When he was reminded that he was arrested in Clearwater on an unrelated charge under his alias Keith Minchew in 1987, he changed his story a few times before stating that he and Janet had dated for several weeks. Stephen made comments about finding and moving Janet’s body and belongings and then confessed to killing her.
Where is Stephen Lamont Now?
After his confession, Stephen Manning Lamont was charged and arrested with first-degree murder before being extradited to Florida, where he was held without bond in a Pinellas County Jail. Eventually, though, in March 2015, nearly 30 years after the fact, he pleaded guilty, admitting that he had accidentally asphyxiated Janet Staschak during an “auto erotic” sex mishap.
However, because evidence suggested that Janet’s wrists and ankles had been bound with duct tape when she died, and the vaginal swabs and nail clippings that revealed Stephen’s DNA implied assault, he was sentenced to life in prison, with no parole for at least 25 years. Today, in his mid-60s, Stephen is incarcerated at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida.
Read More: Where is Tom Sawyer Now?