Sunday, April 22, 2018

Killer linked to another murder

Oba Chandler was executed in 2011 for the killings of a mother and her two daughters with investigators certain he had killed other women.

The facts of the triple murder portrayed a killer who enjoyed his work. In 1989, Chandler dumped the bodies of the Ohio women into Tampa Bay after binding their limbs and tying concrete blocks to their necks.

Investigators' suspicions about other victims were confirmed this week as police in South Florida announced Chandler had been linked by his DNA to the killing of a 20-year-old Davie woman abducted in 1990.

Cold case detectives said DNA evidence in the killing of Ivelisse Berrios-Beguerisse, who was strangled, was recently retested using more sophisticated techniques than were available in the 1990s and proved Chandler raped and killed her.

"If not for Chandler's execution, he would be ... charged with the murder," Coral Springs police said in a written statement. "It wasn't a shocker to see his name come up," Coral Springs Detective Dan Cucchi said Tuesday.

Chandler, 65 when he died, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994 for the killing of Joan "Jo" Rogers, 36, and daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14, who were found floating in Tampa Bay in 1989. Their murders were the subject of a Tampa Bay Times series by reporter Thomas French called Angels & Demons. French won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for the stories.

Cucchi said Chandler's name did not surface in the Coral Springs investigation until 1992 — after he was identified by St. Pete police as the killer of the Rogers women.

Coral Springs police then learned that Chandler had lived 1.5 miles from the Sunrise mall in Broward County mall where Berrios-Beguerisse worked and was abducted.

Chandler abruptly left his home in Sunrise two or three days after Berrios-Beguerisse was killed. "The landlady said he even left furniture behind," Cucchi said.

Berrios-Beguerisse did not return home from work after finishing her shift the night of Nov. 26, 1990. Her worried husband found her car in a mall parking and called police.

His wife's nude body was found dumped in neighboring Coral Springs a few hours later.

Investigators took swabs from Berrios-Beguerisse's body. But tests by the Broward Sheriff's Office lab could not confirm any semen. That meant DNA testing could not be done, Cucchi said.

Even had a DNA profile been created from the swabs in 1990, a sample of Chandler's DNA would not be taken by the state until his 1994 conviction for the Rogers' murders.

The swabs taken in the Coral Springs case were saved and, remarkably, had not degraded. In August 2013, detectives decided to take another look at the investigative file.

The swabs were retested using modern techniques.

"We didn't have high hopes for it," Cucchi said.

The lab was able to confirm a match to Chandler, whose DNA was in a state criminal database.

Berrios-Beguerisse's family declined to comment.

Research: John Martin

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