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Chandler is suspect in several slayings

Oba Chandler, the prime suspect in the 1989 slayings of an Ohio woman and her two daughters, is being investigated in several other unsolved killings in the Southeast, police said Friday.

The killings happened between the slayings of Joan Rogers and her two teenage daughters, Christe and Michelle, in June 1989, and Chandler's arrest two weeks ago, St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Terry Upman said.

The killings bear similarities to the Rogers slayings and a Madeira Beach rape case in which Chandler already has been charged, Upman said. In both of those cases, women were lured onto boats and raped.

Neither Upman nor police spokesman Bill Doniel would provide details of unsolved killings, but said there were fewer than 10.

Asked whether authorities consider Chandler a "prime suspect" in any of the killings, Upman said, "He's just a suspect."

Said Doniel: "It's normal investigative practice to look at other (crimes that are similar)."

Chandler, who was living in a waterfront Tampa home at the time of the Rogers killings, also is considered a suspect in several rapes and robberies in the Southeast, Upman said.

Police have charged Chandler, 45, with two felonies. He has pleaded innocent to the Sept. 19 armed robbery of $750,000 worth of jewelry at an Ulmerton Road motel. He also has been charged with raping a 24-year-old Canadian tourist aboard a powerboat off Madeira Beach on May 15, 1989.

Two weeks later, the bodies of the Rogers women were found bound and gagged in Tampa Bay. Police think the three women went for a boat ride with Chandler after he gave them directions to their Tampa motel earlier that day, June 1. He has not been charged with the killings, although police say he is the prime suspect.

"Again, it's expected that within a very short period of time he will be charged," Upman said at a short news conference Friday. He declined to say whether that meant days, weeks or months.

Police continue to examine evidence and conduct interviews in the case, Upman said.

Chandler has been in the Pinellas County Jail since Sept. 24, the day he was arrested in the Madeira Beach rape case. Police have used the time to strengthen their case before charges are filed, Upman said.

Such delays are not uncommon, Upman said.

"We're not moving into the realm of the unusual," he said. "From the police standpoint, you never have enough evidence."

Chandler, who has worked for police before as a confidential informant, is not cooperating with police in the investigation of the Rogers killings, Upman said. Upman said police have not ruled out the possibility that more than one person was responsible.

In court records, police have identified a 20-foot Bayliner boat owned by Chandler in 1989 as a pivotal piece of evidence. Although the boat has been impounded, authorities say its current owner refurbished the boat after buying it from Chandler.

Police are looking for a copy of Boat Trader magazine from the summer of 1989, when Chandler is thought to have advertised the boat for sale. The magazine includes pictures of most items for sale, and authorities are hoping to use the picture to see how the boat looked at the time of the murders, Upman said.

"It's not in the same condition," Upman said. "The paint has been changed. We're looking for a picture of the boat in the original condition."

Boat Trader's publishers do not keep old copies of their weekly magazine, he said.