New date set for trial in Cape Coral double 1990 homicide after another delay

The trial for the man accused of a 1990 double homicide in Cape Coral was rescheduled to next year after its prior scheduled date would've been just days after Hurricane Ian's landfall.

The trial for Joseph Zieler, 60, a suspect in the May 1990 murders of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and Lisa Story, 32, in Cape Coral, last slated for Oct. 6 before Judge Robert Branning, will instead begin Feb. 23.

Before the October date, the trial was scheduled for August, but availability of experts and the discovery of two evidence boxes by Cape Coral police ultimately delayed the case.

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"A lot of it is duplicates," said Kevin Shirley, defense attorney, of the newly found boxes at the time. However, he agreed, there could be evidence or information not previously seen by the defense.

Zieler, of North Fort Myers, was charged in the slayings of Cornell and Story after a grand jury returned an indictment in November 2016. He remains jailed.

Story was babysitting Cornell when Zieler allegedly attacked them.

The bodies of the victims, who had been sexually assaulted and suffocated, were found by Cornell's mother, Jan Cornell, when she returned home the morning of May 9, 1990.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Zieler's case.

The trial call, which is a hearing to set a date for a trial, was originally scheduled for July 28 with trial possibly starting Aug. 1. Lee Circuit Judge Robert J. Branning signed an order July 18 to delay the trial call until Oct. 6.

The delay, according to a motion to continue filed July 15 by attorneys for Zieler, was due to several factors, including:

  • The unavailability of some defense experts;

  • A July 11 email from the supervisor of forensics and evidence units at the Cape Coral Police Department revealing there are two evidence boxes not previously provided to the state attorney or Zieler's attorneys.

The two boxes, containing hand-written notes from investigators, original Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, fingerprints, VHS tapes and other materials, could be evidence favorable to the defendant, and the defense needed time to investigate the materials.

The News-Press archives contributed to this report.

Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran and Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Joseph Zieler accused in 1990 homicides gets new trial date