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Originally published Friday, August 17, 2012 at 8:06 PM

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DNA links suspect to slaying of 70-year-old vet

Seattle police have arrested a 51-year-old Snohomish County man suspected of killing a Navy veteran at a North Seattle senior independent-living facility last year.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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After countless afternoons chatting about life while the washer and dryer hummed in the background, Rosemary Garnett grew close to Francis "Patrick" Fleming.

The two neighbors at the Four Freedoms senior independent-living center in Seattle's Bitter Lake neighborhood had coffee and watched the evening news together. Garnett cooked their meals, and Fleming stored her extra orange juice in his refrigerator. Garnett even kept her gold-coin collection with Fleming's own prized collection of silver coins.

But on the night of Dec. 8, Garnett went to Fleming's apartment to fetch some orange juice and discovered a horrific scene.

"As I walked in, I saw he was dead. He was lying in a pool of blood," Garnett, 80, said on Friday.

Garnett said she hopes her months of "constant flashbacks" will ease now that Fleming's alleged killer has been caught.

On Thursday, a 51-year-old Lake Stevens man was booked into King County Jail for investigation of homicide after DNA evidence gathered inside Fleming's ransacked apartment linked him to the slaying, according to Seattle police.

Seattle police Detective Cloyd Steiger, in his report, wrote that Fleming's throat was cut and he "suffered several superficial stab wounds consistent with him being tortured."

Fleming's coin collection was missing along with other items, Steiger wrote.

Steiger said testing found the suspect's DNA matched evidence found inside Fleming's home.

On Friday, a King County District Court judge ordered the suspect held in lieu of $1 million bail. Prosecutors say they have until Tuesday to file criminal charges.

The suspect, who is not being named because he has not been charged, does not have a violent criminal history.

In June, the Lake Stevens man was charged in King County District Court with first- and second-degree theft. He allegedly stole pricey items from a Seattle landlord as part of a loosely organized crime scheme involving two other defendants.

Garnett said Friday that she worried about Fleming having his coins stolen because he talked to many people about it.

"He didn't keep his coin collection a secret; he would tell everybody. I used to tell him not to talk so loudly about it," Garnett said.

Fleming, 70, served 20 years in the Navy, and he was twice awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he received while serving in Vietnam, police said. After his years in the Navy, Fleming returned home and worked as a security officer.

"He loved to communicate. He had a wonderful memory; he had an extremely high IQ," Garnett said. "To be 80 years old, and this is the first time I have been in love. I found it, and it was so brief."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

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