Sunday, October 21, 2018
Public safety

Largo murder to be featured on TV show

LARGO — It was every couple's worst nightmare: waking up in the middle of the night to see a masked man, armed with a hunting knife and an ax, standing at the foot of the bed.

On Dec. 15, 1991, Anita Yunk, 34, and her husband of less than a year, Keith Yunk, 31, were sleeping in their home just west of Taylor Park when a man cut their telephone line and broke into their house.

The assailant seriously wounded Anita, slashing her throat and hitting her on the head multiple times with the hatchet. Keith jumped on the attacker to save his wife and was stabbed to death.

The killer escaped and police did not apprehend a suspect until almost 3 months later.

Anita's ex-husband, Luther Basse, admitted that he broke into the house to kill Anita in order to regain custody of his children. He told police that Keith's death was simply "a casualty of war." Basse is serving a life sentence.

This weekend the Investigation Discovery network show Happily Never After will feature the tragic story. The episode is titled "Demon in the Dark."

"This series is about couples who think they are entering the best time of their lives without realizing it is about to become their worst," said David O'Donnell, co-executive producer of the show.

The program brings on relationship expert and psychologist Wendy Walsh to analyze the marriage. According to Walsh, the Yunks' marriage was a perfect do-over for Anita, providing a safe atmosphere to raise their young children. Basse, she said, had been a negative influence on the well-being of Anita and the children during their marriage.

John Carroll, a detective assigned to the Yunk case, said pinning Basse for the crime was not easy. Basse lived in Boise, Idaho, at the time of the murder and flew to Florida under a false identity. The main piece of evidence was a bloody ski mask with a strand of hair attached.

"These were the early days of DNA technology," Carroll said. "We were still focused on blood spatter analysis and eyewitness accounts."

With no way to link the DNA on the mask to Basse, Carroll and fellow Detective Mike Short needed a confession. The detectives pretended to empathize with Basse, acting as though they were intrigued and even impressed with the slaying. Eventually, Basse wore down psychologically and confessed.

"This was a whodunit case that took a lot of work," Carroll said. "You can't walk away from a case like that without it having an effect on you."

After the attack, Anita Yunk tried to remain strong for the sake of her four children. She read true-crime novels in order to be as helpful as possible to Carroll and Short. She went on walks alone at night to overcome her fears, even before a suspect was arrested.

"Whatever I was going through would reflect back on my children," Yunk said. "If I was acting scared all the time, then they would be scared."

She ended up suffering from post-traumatic stress and short-term memory loss. She stopped receiving child support payments after Basse was arrested.

Yunk, now 57, agreed to be interviewed for the show, despite the pain of recounting the story.

"I would rather have been digging ditches or something," she said. "I didn't do it because it's fun. I did it because I felt it was important."

She still lives in Largo, not far from where the murder took place. She says her faith in God, her family and her church community have allowed her to cope.

Appearing in a program like Happily Never After does not help her gain closure, she said, but instead a greater resolve to help others in similar situations.

"If a woman is in an abusive relationship," Yunk said, "I think seeing a story like mine might be the impetus to go seek help and leave."

Times research Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Will Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.

Comments

Woman, 20, killed by falling palm tree on Egmont Key

ST. PETERSBURG — A 20-year-old woman died Saturday afternoon at Egmont Key Park when a palm tree fell on her, according to Hillsborough deputies.Isabel Melendez was lying in a hammock about 4 p.m. on the island, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Offi...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Homicide victim found lying off Dale Mabry/ Busch is 34-year-old man, deputies say

Homicide victim found lying off Dale Mabry/ Busch is 34-year-old man, deputies say

TAMPA — A homicide victim found lying alongside Dale Mabry Highway and Busch Boulevard on Friday afternoon has been identified as Michael Andrew Montalbano, 34, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.Investigators said only that Montalb...
Published: 10/20/18
CrossFit worker, 16, stabbed during robbery attempt outside Tarpon Springs gym

CrossFit worker, 16, stabbed during robbery attempt outside Tarpon Springs gym

TARPON SPRINGS — A Spring Hill teen has been arrested in the stabbing of another teen during a robbery attempt outside a gym where the victim worked.Dedson Hallon Suas, 17, faces a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and attempte...
Published: 10/20/18
Drunk driver hits 11 vehicles on I-275, including state trooper's car. No one hurt

Drunk driver hits 11 vehicles on I-275, including state trooper's car. No one hurt

ST. PETERSBURG — A drunk driver collided with 11 vehicles along a five-mile stretch of Interstate 275 before he was arrested as he was stopped in traffic after exiting into downtown, the Florida Highway Patrol said.No one one was injured in th...
Published: 10/20/18
Romano: Has ‘stand your ground’ made Florida more tolerant of deadly force?

Romano: Has ‘stand your ground’ made Florida more tolerant of deadly force?

In another era, in another state, the video might be too unsettling to watch. A suspected shoplifter is looking for a way to slip past a Lakeland store owner who is holding a gun. The shoplifter gets one hand on the door at the same time the store o...
Published: 10/20/18
Woman, 25, faces murder charge in Tampa shooting, stabbing death

Woman, 25, faces murder charge in Tampa shooting, stabbing death

TAMPA — A 25-year-old Brandon woman was arrested on Thursday in connection with the Sept. 30 murder of Justin Heilig in Hyde Park, according to Tampa police.Melissa McNutt faces charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery, police said.Heilig, 34...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Lakeland commissioner charged with murder in shooting of suspected shoplifter

Lakeland commissioner charged with murder in shooting of suspected shoplifter

LAKELAND — A Lakeland city commissioner surrendered Friday to face a second-degree murder charge in the Oct. 3 fatal shooting of a suspected shoplifter at a military surplus store.Michael Dunn, who has served on the City Commission since January, arr...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Hillsborough deputies seek white SUV in homicide investigation

Hillsborough deputies seek white SUV in homicide investigation

TAMPA — Detectives are looking for a white 4-door Dodge Journey SUV that they believe is connected to the homicide investigation of a 24-year-old man found dead Friday.Witnesses said they saw the vehicle driving away from the apartment complex at 850...
Published: 10/19/18
After a harrowing night, this Pinellas cop backs body cameras: ‘They can’t lie’

After a harrowing night, this Pinellas cop backs body cameras: ‘They can’t lie’

INDIAN SHORES — Officer Matthew Holm shined a flashlight at the oncoming car, the bright beam cutting through the early morning darkness in this sleepy beach town. He motioned for the driver to pull over. Instead, the car accelerated right at him.Hol...
Published: 10/19/18
Man dies in Spring Hill subdivision swimming pool

Man dies in Spring Hill subdivision swimming pool

SPRING HILL — A man died in his swimming pool Friday, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators say he likely drowned.The incident happened at a house on Botanical Drive in the Regency Oaks subdivision northwest of U.S. 19 and ...
Published: 10/19/18