Man arrested in Tallahassee cold case murder linked to previous rape and murder

A man arrested in a Tallahassee cold case murder was previously imprisoned for the rape and murder of a New York teen, court documents say.
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 4:36 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 4:46 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Newly released court documents include graphic and disturbing details from the crime scene of a recently solved cold case murder as well as suspect Alan Lefferts’ criminal history.

Lefferts is accused in the murder of James Branner, who was found dead at the Prince Murat motel back in July 1996. Lefferts was arrested in Baker County on May 31 and booked into the Leon County Jail earlier this week.

Newly filed arrest papers say Lefferts went to prison in New York in 1979 for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl and was released from prison just 10 years later in 1989. Tallahassee Police Department detectives say he moved to Florida soon after his release.

The seven-page probable cause affidavit includes new information about the 1996 Tallahassee murder and the investigation that followed. It says Branner had been strangled and was found dead in the motel room bathtub with a washcloth stuffed in his mouth.

Detectives found a bloody handprint on the bathroom wall and droplets of blood along the walkway outside. The handprint and DNA from the washcloth were entered into law enforcement databases at the time, with negative results.

Tallahassee police discovered the motel room had been registered the day before under the name “Jim and Al Branner.” Detectives tried to track down “Al,” who court papers say was last seen outside the motel room the day of the murder asking for a light for his cigarette.

He was described as a middle-aged white man between 5′7″ and 5′10″ with “light-colored shoulder-length hair, mustache,” but detectives were never able to identify him.

Fast forward to 2020: TPD tested the DNA and handprint again, with no results.

Then in 2021, an investigative lead linked the DNA to the Lefferts family and ultimately to Alan Lefferts. TPD says his fingerprints were compared to latent prints at the crime scene and matched prints taken from the motel room telephone.

A review of Lefferts’ old driver’s license photos also matched the original witness descriptions, court documents say.

Lefferts is being held in the Leon County Jail without bond to await trial. His next court date has not yet been set.

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