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Deadly trek ran through Suncoast

Published Oct. 13, 2005

The reporters have stopped their daily calls and investigators have taken their last report, for now. Shirley Humphreys finally has a measure of peace, though not the kind she longs for. Mrs. Humphreys was expecting to spend the coming years easing into retirement with her husband, Charles "Dick" Humphreys. But on Sept. 11, one day after the couple's 35th wedding anniversary, those dreams ended when her husband was shot fatally and dumped in southwest Marion County.

The reasons for his murder remain a mystery, but authorities are confident they know who killed Humphreys. They say Aileen Wuornos made him one of seven victims in what they portray as a murderous trek across Central Florida.

The 35-year-old woman has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the Humphreys slaying, one of several such counts she is facing statewide.

"Somewhere along the line he met up with this lady (Wuornos). I'm really remiss in calling her a lady," Mrs. Humphreys said. "I don't know why he stopped (to pick her up.) I'll probably never know."

The Humphreys case is one of several strong, though seemingly unrelated, strands linking Citrus County to what is emerging as a case unusual in American crime: a serial murder investigation in which a woman is the suspected killer.

Information about the Wuornos case, obtained by the Times after a public records request to the 5th Circuit state attorney's office, sheds new light on Citrus County's connections to the case.

Among the findings are details concerning:

the period between March and July 1989 when Wuornos and her friend, Tyria J. Moore, lived in Homosassa and Chassahowitzka;

David Spears, an Orlando man who is thought to be another of Wuornos' victims, whose body was found near a dirt road in Chassahowitzka last June;

and the role of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, whose undercover agents finally captured Wuornos in Daytona Beach.

Moving around

If there's one thing authorities know for sure about Wuornos, it's that she and Moore were extremely mobile and somewhat crafty.

When investigators caught up with Moore, they asked for a rundown of where the two women had lived recently. Moore wrote a two-page list of 30 addresses covering the period between June 1986 and last December.

The list showed that the two women stayed in a motel and trailer in Homosassa from March 1989 through May or June of that year. They also stayed at the Chassahowitzka River Lodge; at the time, Wuornos was using one of her aliases, Susan Blahovic.

They had one brush with the law, an incident in which they were portrayed as the victims.

According to a sheriff's report, Moore and Wuornos were drinking beer at the Chassahowitzka River Lodge on June 16 when they met Donald Scott Cribbs of Tampa. Later that evening, Moore said, Cribbs walked toward the front door of their trailer. Moore opened the door, pointed a pellet gun at Cribbs and told him to leave.

Cribbs, she said, took the gun, dragged her out of the trailer and pointed a shotgun at her. Moore told a deputy she freed herself from Cribbs, grabbed her gun and again told Cribbs to leave.

Cribbs told authorities he was merely walking toward the trailer when Moore opened the door and pointed the gun; he went to his truck, grabbed the shotgun and told Moore, "If you're going to shoot me, don't miss," the report said.

The deputy told Moore and Wuornos to pursue charges through the state attorney's office. The file does not reflect any such action.

After that, Moore's list indicates, the two women went to Ormond Beach and several other places. They rarely stayed long anywhere.

The next time Wuornos visited Citrus, authorities say, she was leaving behind the body of one her victims.

Dumped along U.S. 19

David Spears had a routine. He left work each Saturday about noon and drove from Sarasota, where he was a concrete foreman, to Winter Garden, where he and his former wife still shared a home.

He started that trek on May 19, 1990, but he never made it.

On June 1, a local man found Spears' decomposed body dumped in some brush just east of U.S. 19, close to the border with Hernando County, authorities have reported.

Spears' pickup had been found days earlier, abandoned along Interstate 75 south of Gainesville. His body was nude, except for a baseball cap on his head. A used condom and condom packages were near the body.

Why he was dumped along U.S. 19 in Citrus County remains a mystery. His usual route took him from Interstate 75 to Interstate 4, which he took toward Orlando.

Authorities have not indicated why they think Spears was so far from those highways.

Spears' former wife, Ima, and his sons, Jeff and David, both said David Spears did not have any friends or relatives living in Citrus.

Though the Citrus connection with Spears never materialized, investigators eventually saw similarities between his killing and the other murders in the region.

When it came time to confront the alleged killer, Citrus County once again entered the picture.

Going undercover

If you saw Mike Joyner or Dick Martin walking down the street, the last thing you would think is "cop." That's the way they like it.

The Citrus County sheriff's investigators do a large amount of undercover work.

Their work clothes are jeans and T-shirts and sometimes baseball caps. Both can speak street slang easily, then switch to the controlled, detailed style of a law officer.

In January, after sifting through a mountain of leads and bits of information about a string of unsolved killings in the region, investigators thought that Wuornos was their main suspect, according to the reports.

They tracked her to Daytona Beach, where she was known to frequent several bars. Martin, Joyner and undercover officers from other agencies split into two-person teams to check out the local bars.

On Jan. 8, Joyner and Martin found Wuornos standing inside the doorway of the Port Orange Bar, on U.S. 1 in Port Orange.

The investigators declined to talk about the case for this story. But according to their reports, this is what happened:

After Martin and Joyner walked into the bar, some Port Orange police officers also came inside.

The local officers approached Wuornos, who identified herself as Cammie Green, one of her many aliases.

Wuornos stepped outside and talked to the officers; when she came back in the bar, she was "extremely disturbed" and was yelling.

Joyner and Martin, who gave her false names, chimed in with similar comments and quickly struck up a conversation with Wuornos.

They chatted for a few minutes, then Wuornos picked up a brown suitcase and left for the Last Resort Bar, about a half-mile away.

The next night, Martin and Joyner went to the Last Resort and saw Wuornos, who recognized them and called them by their false names.

At that point, Joyner wore a hidden microphone that recorded Wuornos' words.

She told the men she had just returned from a trip and that she spent about $600 in the last two weeks, leaving her with no money and no place to stay.

Joyner and Martin offered to rent a hotel room for her, thinking that other officers could arrest her when they arrived there.

Wuornos refused to leave with them, so the men persuaded her to go outside and give them directions someplace.

At that point, undercover officers arrested her on an outstanding 1986 warrant for carrying a concealed firearm. Murder charges would come later.

Dealing with the loss

Wuornos' capture, and the subsequent allegations that she could be a serial killer, was a shock to Shirley Humphreys.

But then, she had dealt with a variety of shocks since Sept. 11.

She expected her husband home by dinnertime that day. Humphreys, a 53-year-old supervisor with the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services' office in Sumter County, had called his office and said he was going home about 4 p.m.

Humphreys was seen several times near State Road 44 and Interstate 75, which was part of the route he took home each day.

His body was found the next day in woods in southwest Marion County.

He had been shot seven times with a .22-caliber handgun.

Some of the victims may have picked up Wuornos as a prostitute, and others may have given her a ride.

Mrs. Humphreys discounted both those theories in her husband's case.

He was a 21-year veteran of the Air Force who had studied, taught and practiced law enforcement and security all his adult life.

"He would not stop for a hitchhiker. He was very adamant about this. Both of us were," she said.

"He was not a man who ran around. He was a dedicated family man. We had a great life together," she said. "I don't think she could lure him with sex.

"She can say what she wants, but I don't think it's so. He was one of the few victims that was fully clothed."

Humphrey's daughter, Terri Humphreys Slay, said she initially thought the killer was someone from her father's past.

"I thought it was something work-related. We thought that maybe it was somebody he put away years ago" when he was chief of police in Sylacauga, Ala., during the early 1980s.

"That I almost could justify in my mind," Slay said. "But this, he was in the wrong place at the wrong moment.

"Ten minutes later, if he had been there 10 minutes later or 10 minutes earlier . . .

"It eats you up. It eats me up, every day," she said.

Mrs. Humphreys says she has put her Crystal River home up for sale because it's too big for just one person.

She also relies on family and friends to do outside work for her.

Every day she gets upset thinking how long it will take for Wuornos to be brought to trial in the case _ next year at the earliest. She also wonders how she will react when she finally sees Wuornos in the courtroom.

Sometimes she just thinks about that last anniversary dinner she shared with her husband the night before he disappeared.

"I just did not know," she said, "that it was going to be his last day forever."