Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Notorious: A compilation of Tampa Bay's most heinous crimes

Oba Chandler still haunts us. He is set to be executed Nov. 15 for one of the most horrific crimes in Tampa Bay history: the 1989 murder of an Ohio woman and her two daughters whose bodies were found floating in the bay June 4, 1989. They were tied up, weighed down with concrete blocks and thrown overboard to drown. It took detectives three years to solve the murders of Joan "Jo" Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14. Three years before we first heard the name Oba Chandler. Sadly, there are many more notorious names around Tampa Bay. Names like Bolin, Couey and Carr. Names responsible for some of the most infamous crimes, the worst carnage the region has ever seen — so many crimes that there are too many to list here. Clearly, Chandler is not the only one who still haunts us.

The child killers

• Bradley McGee had been abused throughout his short life. He was 2 when his stepfather, Thomas Coe, dunked him head-first into a toilet. He died soon after. Coe got life in prison, mother Sheryl McGee Coe nine years. After Bradley's death, the state funded 628 new child welfare workers.

John Couey was a sex offender when he lured 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford from her Homosassa home Feb. 24, 2005, raped her and buried her alive. Sentenced to death, Couey died of cancer Sept. 30, 2009, at 51.

• Police say New Tampa mother Julie Schenecker, 50, was sick of her teens talking back to her. So, they say, on Jan. 27, 2010, she fatally shot her son Beau, 13, when they got home from soccer practice and her daughter Calyx, 16, as she did her homework. She faces death if convicted.

In the line of duty

The murder of a police officer is a crime that scars the entire community. A few stand out for the level of violence.

• The deadliest day in Tampa Bay law enforcement history was May 19, 1998. Hank Earl Carr used a hidden handcuff key to escape custody and killed Tampa police detectives Rick Childers and Randy Bell. Then he killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James "Brad" Crooks while fleeing to Brooksville, where he killed himself.

• Then there was Dontae Morris, accused of killing Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab on June 29, 2010. Morris, 26, is also charged with three other murders and faces death if convicted.

• Seven months later, on Jan. 24, two St. Petersburg police officers were killed by Hydra Lacy Jr. He fired at many others in the attack that killed Officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Thomas Baitinger and injured a federal marshal. Lacy died in the gun battle.

The mass killers

Paul Calden approached the bosses who fired him from Fireman's Fund Insurance and started shooting on Jan. 27, 1993. He killed Ronald Ciarlone, 46; Frank A. Ditullio, 43; and Donald Jerner, 46. Calden, 33, killed himself at a Clearwater park.

John William "Billy" Ferry Jr. walked into the Clair Mel Winn-Dixie on July 2, 1983, splashed the checkout counter with four gallons of gasoline, sparked his lighter and ran out laughing. The ensuing fireball burned 18 people. Five died: Martha Vance, 23, and her 4-year-old daughter, Jennifer; Melody Darlington, 27, and her niece Misty McCullough, 16; and Leigh Carter, 20. A jury rejected his insanity defense, but his death sentence was later overturned. Ferry, 58, will serve five consecutive life terms — after his 30-year sentence for arson expires in 2015.

Newton "Newt" Slawson destroyed an entire Tampa family April 11, 1989. Slawson used a .357 magnum to kill Gerald Wood, 23, his pregnant wife Peggy, 21, and their children, Jennifer, 4, and Glendon, 3. He cut Peggy's 8-month-old fetus from her womb. Slawson was executed May 16, 2003, at 48.

Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva fatally shot four co-workers at the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel and then killed a fifth victim during a carjacking Dec. 30, 2000. It was the worst workplace shooting in Tampa Bay history. His victims: Jose R. Aguilar, 40; George C. Jones, 44; Eric E. Pedroso, 29; Barbara Carter, 55; and Dolores Perdomo, 56. Leyva, 47, is serving 14 life sentences.

The school shooting

• Jason Harless and Jason McCoy: Before Columbine, there was Pinellas Park High School. Administrators confronted two students in the cafeteria on Feb. 11, 1988, over rumors someone had a gun. Harless, 15, pulled out a stolen .38 and shot a student-teacher in the leg, hit an assistant principal in the arm, stomach and leg, then fatally shot assistant principal Richard Allen. Harless was wounded while fleeing. Harless' friend, McCoy, 15, also took a gun to school that day. He served 14 months. Harless served eight years and was freed in 1996.

The serial killers

• Once deemed "unadoptable" as a child by the state, Gerald Stano became one of the nation's most prolific serial killers. He confessed to 25 murders in 1980, including as many as 15 women from Tampa Bay. He was executed March 23, 1998, at 47.

Bobby Joe Long started the early 1980s as the "Classified Ad Rapist," attacking dozens of women in South Florida. He moved to Tampa and became a murderer. In 1984, he kidnapped, raped and killed his first victim. He confessed to killing 10 women that year and hinted at more. At 58, he is serving 28 life sentences and awaiting execution.

• Serial killer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. has been convicted and sentenced to death six times for the 1986 murders of three women. He won new trials each time. Now 49, he is back on death row for a third time for killing Stephanie Collins, 17; Natalie Blanche Holley, 25; and Teri Lynn Matthews, 26. In 1996, Rosalie Martinez left her South Tampa lawyer husband and married Bolin.

Brian K. Rosenfeld was a nurse who spent years poisoning patients at nursing homes, making him perhaps the most prolific serial killer ever in Tampa Bay. Authorities said 29 people died. He was convicted of killing three patients from 1987-1990. Rosenfeld, 58, is serving life.

Edwin "Mike" Kaprat III was the Hernando County handyman who became known as the "Granny Killer" for a seven-week reign of terror in 1993: he raped and killed five elderly women and burned them and their homes. He was on death row when he was fatally stabbed during a fight over a volleyball game in 1995.

The serial rapists

Bruce Alan Young is a nurse who pleaded guilty to raping seven female patients at Citrus Memorial Hospital while they were sedated. The rapes started in July 1991; the final victim was a 15-year-old girl. He violated his probation in 2008 by escaping a treatment center. He was then given a 210-year sentence.

Steven Lorenzo and Scott Schweickert fantasized about terrorizing gay men in Tampa — then went out and did it. In 2005, Lorenzo was sentenced to 200 years in federal prison for sexually torturing and drugging nine men. Schweickert got 40 years in 2007. Both were also linked to the deaths of Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz.

The tabloid headliner

• The 1998 death of Vicki Robinson, a 49-year-old mother of two in Tampa, wasn't just murder — it was matricide. Her own daughter, Valessa Robinson, was convicted of her death. Valessa was 15 when she conspired to kill her mom with boyfriend Adam Davis and Jon Whispel. Davis is on death row. Whispel is serving 25 years and will be freed in 2021. Valessa Robinson was 17 when she was sentenced to 20 years in 2000. She will be released in 2014.

The hate crime

Mark Kohut and Charles Rourk were two white laborers from Ohio convicted of the worst hate crime in Tampa Bay history: they kidnapped black tourist Christopher Wilson and set him on fire New Year's Day 1993. Both men were sentenced to life in prison and sent to New Mexico for their safety.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

Read more

This is not meant to be a complete list of the bay area's most infamous crimes, which sadly are numerous. For a longer compilation, go to

Editor's note: Our Here's the Deal feature will return next week.

Notorious: A compilation of Tampa Bay's most heinous crimes 11/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  3. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  4. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]