Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Family of young woman found dead in Lealman hotel waits for answers

GULFPORT — The family of a young woman found dead in a hotel Monday said they are bewildered by the killing.

But they don't believe whoever is responsible was a stranger to 24-year-old Destynee Nekole Burkes.

"We have our own suspicions," said Rawn Godwin, 51, Burkes' stepfather. "We're dealing with it as it comes."

Godwin declined to elaborate, saying he didn't want to jeopardize the criminal investigation.

Burkes' body was discovered Monday afternoon in Lealman at the La Quinta motel, 4999 34th St. N.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office released few details about the killing. Investigators have not said how Burkes died or provided information on a suspect or motive.

"Homicide detectives are currently following up on several leads obtained from witness accounts and evidence collected at the crime scene," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Dave Disano said in a statement.

Burkes lived in Gulfport with her family. She grew up in the area, Godwin said, and attended Boca Ciega High School.

She was a debutante with the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 2007 and secured a certified nursing license a few months later.

Her career choice fit with her personality, Godwin said. Growing up, Burkes was like a mother hen to her two younger sisters, Godwin said.

After high school and some college, she began doing home health care for elderly clients, often working 12-hour days. She also coached cheerleading for young girls.

"She was a very giving person," Godwin said. "She always liked taking care of people."

Godwin said he wasn't sure how his stepdaughter came to be at the hotel. He said he last saw her Sunday night, after she got off work. She then left the house to go out with friends, he said.

He assumed she went to work the next day, as usual.

"I was met yesterday by two detectives when I got home from work, at about 4 o'clock," Godwin said. "They asked a bunch of questions about Destynee, and whether she had any identifying marks on her body. They said they were from homicide."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Kameel Stanley can be reached at or (727) 893-8643.

Family of young woman found dead in Lealman hotel waits for answers 01/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 11:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cridlin: Linkin Park's Chester Bennington had a wail that stood apart

    Music & Concerts

    For all the old-timers' talk about how they don't make singers like they used to, about how rock vocalists of the 21st century can't hold a candle to the frontmen of yesteryear, here's a fact no hater could deny:

    Chester Bennington could flat-out wail.

    Chester Bennington of Linkin Park  performs at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the 2014 Carnivores Tour. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Police investigating shooting in north Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Police were investigating a shooting in north Tampa Thursday that left one person seriously injured.

  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Team begins work to exhume Salvador Dali's body for paternity test


    FIGUERES, Spain — A forensic team on Thursday entered the Salvador Dali museum in northeastern Spain where the surrealist artist's remains are due to be exhumed to settle a paternity claim brought by a 61- year-old woman.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. Work has begun to exhume his body for a parternity test. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]
  5. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.