Persistence pays off for Martin County detective who helped solve murder

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 7:40 PM EDT
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In the second profile as part of WPTV’s law enforcement awareness week, WPTV takes a closer look at the outstanding detective work conducted in the seaside town of Jensen Beach.

That's where a missing persons case was reported to the Martin County Sheriff's Office on March 2, 2022. Cynthia Cole, 57, seemed to have disappeared without a trace. Friends and family had not heard from Cole in days and her Facebook page had also gone eerily silent.

"Normally she was daily posting on Facebook," Martin County Sheriff's Office Detective Drew Patterson remembered. "She hadn't posted anything in days, so something was off."

Cynthia Cole, woman found dead in septic tank
Cynthia Cole, woman found dead in septic tank

Cole had been renovating her home, transforming it into an Airbnb. Her friends told detectives she was working with a 37-year-old handyman, Keoki Demich.

Patterson worked to earn Demichs' trust but grew suspicious after a few conversations.

"He had a really good memory of the five days that we were asking about," Patterson said. "You know, I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly where I was five days ago, but he kind of had a minute-by-minute recall of where he had been. That kind of started the little feeling, you know, when the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up."

After days of questioning, Patterson said, Demich offered up a series of stories that didn't add up.

Keoki Demich has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Cynthia Cole, whose body...
Keoki Demich has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Cynthia Cole, whose body was found in a Jensen Beach septic tank on March 5, 2022.

"We talked to him over a two- or three-day period," Patterson said. "He wrapped himself up in a series of lies."

Demich told detectives he had not been to Cole's home in days, yet detectives confirmed through phone records that he had traveled there using a ride-sharing service.

"Finally, we sprung it on him. We said, 'Hey, we have this information that you were at the house that day,'" Patterson recalled. "He later admitted to what happened. I just couldn't believe the gruesome details he was giving us."

Demich confessed he had waited for Cole in her home, then attacked and killed her. Detectives later found her body stuffed in the septic tank in her backyard.

Patterson has been nominated by his supervisors for the 2023 LEO Detective of the Year Award.

Scripps Only Content 2023