Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Public safety

Police: Notorious killer Oba Chandler's DNA links him to 1990 South Florida 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.

"He didn't cover their eyes because he liked tormenting them and seeing the fear in their eyes," said retired St. Petersburg Detective Cindy "Cindra" Leedy.

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 asphyxiated, 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.

The family was on vacation when Chandler lured them onto his boat, police said.

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.

Hal Rogers, an Ohio farmer whose family was killed by Chandler, said in an interview he was not surprised to hear the news of another victim.

"I just knew he was one bad egg," said Rogers. "Some things take a while to come to light. They normally do eventually."

It took three years to crack the Rogers' case.

First their murders were linked to the rape of a 24-year-old Canadian woman two weeks prior. A local invited her on his boat and raped her. She survived.

A Tampa resident realized that the sketch of the rape suspect matched her neighbor, Chandler. Later, his neighbors realized that handwritten directions given to the Rogers family and later displayed by police on billboards also matched Chandler's handwriting.

But the task force investigating the murders was flooded with tips. It took more than a year before they focused on Chandler.

Cucchi said Chandler's name did not surface in the Coral Springs case until 1992 — after he was identified 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 where Berrios-Beguerisse worked and was abducted.

Cucchi said police discovered 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 lot and called police.

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

"Chandler was trolling for victims that night," Cucchi said.

Investigators took swabs from Berrios-Beguerisse's body. But tests by the Broward Sheriff's Office lab could not confirm any semen. The lab said the samples were not suitable for further testing.

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.

Pinellas investigators believed Chandler was linked to other abductions and rapes dating as far back as 1963. But retired Pinellas prosecutor Bruce Bartlett said time decreases the chances of solving other cases.

"Chandler was a pretty sharp criminal as criminals go," Bartlett said. "He was good at covering his tracks."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

     
 
Comments
Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

Pasco corporal who took down student on video now cleared (w/video)

LAND O’LAKES — Kayla Peña filled up her water bottle then returned to her lunch table at Sunlake High School when she heard a commotion in the cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon.A female student was riled up, walking back and forth, Peña said, screaming ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For senior week, Lakewood High School must mourn a senior

For senior week, Lakewood High School must mourn a senior

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood High School principal Erin Savage has never planned a candlelight vigil. But this week, Savage must learn how to do so as her school mourns the tragic death of one of its graduating seniors.Bryson Welton-Williams, 18, died T...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Man on Clearwater Beach pulled from water, hospitalized

CLEARWATER — A 33-year-old man pulled from the water north of Pier 60 was hospitalized Wednesday afternoon.Clearwater Fire & Rescue spokesman Rob Shaw said a bystander noticed the Dunedin man, who has not been identified, was in trouble and brought h...
Updated: 6 hours ago
State Road 54 closed after state trooper injured in crash

State Road 54 closed after state trooper injured in crash

WESLEY CHAPEL — A motorist suffered a medical emergency and crashed into six cars at a Wesley Chapel traffic light Wednesday, injuring a trooper, the Florida Highway Patrol said.The trooper, whose injuries were not life threatening, was airlifted to ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Orlando armed carjacking suspect on the run in Hillsborough, authorities say

Orlando armed carjacking suspect on the run in Hillsborough, authorities say

PLANT CITY — Multiple law enforcement agencies are searching for an armed man responsible for a string of Wednesday morning carjackings, including one that involved gunfire, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Authorities described ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Trinity teen killed in crash remembered as ‘positive’ and ‘smiling’

Trinity teen killed in crash remembered as ‘positive’ and ‘smiling’

TRINITY — Friends said they will remember Lillia Morris, who was killed Tuesday in a car crash, as always smiling.Morris, 17, was killed after a 2008 Chevrolet SUV ran a red light and slammed into her car at State Road 54 and Duck Slough Boulevard.Ka...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Man, teen face murder charges in Clearwater shooting

Man, teen face murder charges in Clearwater shooting

CLEARWATER — A man and teen face first-degree murder charges in connection with an apparent drug-related fatal shooting last week.Police say Daniel Curtis Battle, 28, and Malique Devon Gary, 17, shot Ricardo Guzman four times on Friday at Melrose on ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
UCF student from Hillsborough, one other accused of rape; fraternity suspended

UCF student from Hillsborough, one other accused of rape; fraternity suspended

ORLANDO — A University of Central Florida student from Hillsborough County and a fellow fraternity member face charges after they were accused of raping a woman at a party.That fraternity has since been placed on interim suspension.Orange County Sher...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Two hospitalized after crash on Bayside Bridge

Two hospitalized after crash on Bayside Bridge

CLEARWATER — Two Brandon men were hospitalized Tuesday night after they lost control of their car and crashed into trees on the south end of the Bayside Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.At 8:15 p.m., 19-year-old Coi Jenkins was driving...
Updated: 12 hours ago
He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

He spent 17 years in prison. Now he’s a free man.

TAMPA — Dwight DuBose walked out of the Orient Road Jail on Tuesday night after trading an orange jumpsuit for a brand new polo shirt and slacks. It was about 9 p.m. He flashed a broad smile and hugged staff members of the Innocence Project of...
Published: 04/25/18