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South Florida cold case: Plea deal sets man indicted for 1983 Delray Beach homicide free

DELRAY BEACH — A man accused in the 1983 murder of a woman in Delray Beach was released from jail last week after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge nearly 39 years to the day that police found her dead.

At one point Ralph Williams, now 60, had faced a charge of first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Carla Lowe of Pompano Beach on Nov. 13, 1983. She was found beaten and run over at the Amtrak station off Congress Avenue.

His plea to a lesser charge of manslaughter with a weapon came one day after he had rejected an offer from the state, telling the court he was dissatisfied with how the Palm Beach County Public Defender's Office had represented him.

Circuit Judge Cymonie Rowe rejected a motion to review the effectiveness of Williams' legal counsel, determining that his attorneys had met professional standards in representing him.

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Carla Lowe, 21, was killed near a Delray Beach train station on Nov. 13, 1983. On Nov. 30, 2021, police announced an arrest in the case
Carla Lowe, 21, was killed near a Delray Beach train station on Nov. 13, 1983. On Nov. 30, 2021, police announced an arrest in the case

In approving a plea deal negotiated between prosecutors and defense attorneys during the Nov. 15 hearing, Rowe credited Williams with one year of time served and placed him on 10 years of probation.

A grand jury indicted Williams in November 2021 on the first-degree murder charge in Lowe's death. Shortly afterward, Williams taken into custody by authorities in Jacksonville. Police said he was living there at the time of his arrest.

Lowe's nephew, Danny Cogdill of Pompano Beach, said a majority of her family would have preferred to see the case go to trial, but understood that a trial would not have guaranteed a conviction.

He said it was disappointing that Williams didn't immediately accept the plea deal when the court offered it Nov. 14.

"It's sad when he's offered (the deal) on Monday and he makes the family have to go back up there again," Cogdill said. "Unfortunately, when you deal with people with a callous heart, they don't really make a connection to the damage they do to the family."

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In a prepared statement, State Attorney Dave Aronberg acknowledged the outcome of the case was "imperfect" but thanked prosecutors and Delray Beach police "for the hard work that led to the conviction of Ralph Williams."

“(Tuesday's) guilty plea and sentence, while imperfect, hopefully provides a measure of justice for the family of homicide victim Carla Lowe in this nearly 40-year-old cold case," Aronberg's statement said.

At the time of Williams' arrest, Delray Beach cold-case detectives announced that he was linked to Lowe's murder through fingerprint evidence recovered with the help of new technology. They employed a company based in England.

Investigators alleged that Williams killed Lowe as she waited at the station near Depot Avenue.

Lowe's body was found lying in the middle of Depot, which lies west of Interstate 95 and north of Atlantic Avenue. There was no apparent connection between Lowe and Williams, and a motive for the murder was not known, police said.

Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at jwhigham@pbpost.com and follow him on Twitter at @JuliusWhigham. Help support our work: Subscribe today. 

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Man takes manslaughter plea deal in 1983 Delray Beach cold-case homicide