Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two-decade trail finally leads to Largo murder trial

Jeffrey Lobik, 41, is on trial in the 1987 murder of Susan Heyliger, whose throat was slit, at the Country Club Lounge in Largo.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Jeffrey Lobik, 41, is on trial in the 1987 murder of Susan Heyliger, whose throat was slit, at the Country Club Lounge in Largo.

The original medical examiner who did the autopsy on the victim has been dead for 20 years. The supervising police officer has retired to a cabin in Montana. And the primary officer now works somewhere else.

But those who know the case best came to a Pinellas County courtroom Tuesday to testify at the trial of a man Largo police spent 18 years investigating before arresting.

And although it has been two decades since Susan Heyliger died, her relatives filled nearly three rows of seats behind the prosecutors' table.

The night of June 7, 1987, Heyliger, 42, was cleaning up after closing the Country Club Lounge on East Bay Drive. Unknown to her, someone was hiding in the ceiling above the men's bathroom. He hit her, strangled her and slit her throat, authorities say, before getting away with $600.

Two years later, Largo police found a prime suspect, Jeffrey Lobik, now 41. He had been drinking at the bar that night. He had no alibi for the early morning hours. His tennis shoes matched a shoe print found at the scene. And his criminal record included a charge of burglary.

But it would take another 16 years and a slipup in his story before Lobik was arrested, officials said.

At first, Lobik consistently denied that he was in the crawl space. When questioned in 2004, however, Lobik told a detective he had gone into the crawl space to smoke crack that night. That inconsistency led authorities to charge him with first-degree murder a year later.

Defense attorney Kandice Friesen said Lobik, who lived in Largo at the time of the killing but later moved to Ocala, never confessed to police or in letters to family.

On Tuesday, medical examiner Jon Thogmartin testified instead of John Gallagher, who performed the autopsy in 1987 but died a year later.

Thogmartin said Heyliger was hit behind the head and on the forehead, leaving bruises and cuts.

But it wasn't enough to kill her.

Thogmartin said Heyliger was choked so hard, her necklace left an impression in her skin.

But it wasn't enough to kill her.

It was the three slashes to the throat that killed her, Thogmartin said, but not before she took a few breaths and bled to death.

"She was alive after the strangulation and she was alive after the throat cut," he told jurors.

Allen Kough, who has 11 felony convictions, said in his testimony that he was in the van transporting him and Lobik to jail. Lobik told him about Heyliger's murder "like he didn't care at all," he said.

"They couldn't prove it then and they'll never prove it now," Kough said Lobik told him.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

Jackie Alexander can be reached at jdalexander@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Two-decade trail finally leads to Largo murder trial 07/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Girl says her mom asked for forgiveness before stabbing her

    Crime

    ATLANTA — Everyone was asleep when Isabel Martinez began stabbing her children and then fatally stabbed her husband as he tried seek help, her daughter told a child welfare caseworker.

    In a  July 7 file photo, Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance, in Lawrenceville , Ga. Martinez is charged with killing four of her children and their father. [AP Photo/John Bazemore, File]
  2. McCain says 'I'll be back soon' as he battles brain cancer

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Battling brain cancer, Sen. John McCain on Thursday promised to return to work, making a good-natured dig at his Republican and Democratic colleagues who were jolted by news of the six-term lawmaker's diagnosis.

    Sen. John McCain has been diagnosed with a brain tumor after a blood clot was removed. [Associated Press]
  3. Fire on neighbor's porch leads to charges against Holiday man

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A Holiday man was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he torched the front porch of his neighbor, who he insisted was holding his daughter hostage.

    Dan Fry, 63, of Holiday was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree arson. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  4. Port Richey man solicited sex from 13-year-old, Pasco authorities say

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey man was arrested Wednesday after Pasco County authorities say he solicited sex from a 13-year-old boy on the gay male dating app Grindr.

    Shawn Daly, 43, of Port Richey was charged with solicitation for sexual conduct with a child over a computer. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]