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Sister feared Chandler had a hand in women's killings

Oba Chandler's sister said she told prosecutors last week that her brother saved newspaper articles about the 1989 slayings of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters.

The sister, Lula Harris, said she also told prosecutors that Chandler's wife confided to her that she suspected her husband of involvement in the women's deaths.

"She was scared because she was afraid he did do it," Mrs. Harris said of Chandler's wife in an interview with the Times. "She was frightened because he was saving the (newspaper) clippings."

Mrs. Harris said she spoke to her brother by telephone shortly after his arrest last month. She said he seemed almost nonchalant about being identified as the prime suspect in the Rogers case.

"He said, "I didn't have nothing to do with those damn women,' " Mrs. Harris recalled.

In describing her testimony to prosecutors, Mrs. Harris, a 50-year-old Florida resident, added new details about the unfolding investigation into the deaths of Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14.

Police say the vacationing women were bound with rope and duct tape, raped and then tossed from a boat, their bodies weighted with concrete blocks. The bodies, nude from the waist down, were discovered floating in Tampa Bay on June 4, 1989.

Last month, law enforcement officials identified Chandler, a 45-year-old aluminum contractor, as the prime suspect in the triple slaying.

Chandler hasn't been charged in the case, but police have offered two reasons for linking him to the deaths: First, they say his handwriting and fingerprints match scribbled directions and fingerprints on a tourist map found in the Rogerses' car. Second, they say there are similarities between the circumstances of the Rogers women's deaths and the rape of a Canadian tourist they say Chandler committed weeks before. Chandler was formally charged in that case Wednesday.

Pinellas prosecutors conduct their own inquiries into criminal cases before deciding whether to seek a grand jury indictment or file charges themselves.

Mrs. Harris said detectives have interviewed her because she had frequent contact with Oba and Debra Chandler in 1989. She said she cleaned the couple's home on Dalton Avenue in Tampa and looked after their infant daughter during the week.

Mrs. Harris said the Pinellas prosecutors pressed her for information on the whereabouts of news clippings she says Chandler saved about the Rogers case.

It is not uncommon for prosecutors to claim that a defendant's possession of news clippings about the crime is circumstantial evidence of guilt. Nor is it uncommon, experts say, for killers to save news clippings as "trophies" of their deeds.

Mrs. Harris said she told prosecutors that she once saw the clippings on a counter in her brother's house.

Mrs. Harris said she confronted her brother about the Rogerses' deaths after Debra Chandler told her she feared he was involved.

According to Mrs. Harris, Oba Chandler responded jokingly: "Yeah, right, I killed those women."

"He said, "I'm just bulls-------,' " Mrs. Harris said.

After that discussion, she said, she was reassured by her brother's response and didn't bring up the subject again.

Chandler's public defenders declined to comment Wednesday night.

Debra Chandler could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors also declined to comment.

Chandler has several relatives in the Tampa Bay area, but Mrs. Harris said that as far as she knows she is the only one, with the possible exception of his wife, who has given testimony to prosecutors.