1. Archive

Sheriff delays information on 3 deaths

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office has had little to say about the deaths of three people whose bodies were found off the Hernando coast last week.

On Tuesday morning, Sheriff Rich Nugent was planning to break the silence, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Joseph Paez said.

Then sheriff's officials spoke to the family of the deceased. Specifically, Hernando officials talked with Chief Ron Otterbacher of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Otterbacher is the son-in-law of Joan Shiver, the 60-year-old Orlando woman whose body was found in Centipede Bay early Thursday morning.

The bodies of her husband, Byron Shiver, 59, and Shiver's 79-year-old mother, Louise, were found in the family's pontoon boat, which was grounded on a patch of rocks nearby.

"The family has asked that we not put anything out before Tuesday's memorial service," Paez said. "It was a personal request from the chief and the family to the sheriff."

Paez said Hernando Maj. Mearl Letts called Otterbacher to tell him about plans to release information on Tuesday.

As a result of that telephone call, information about the deaths of the Shivers was put on hold for the day, Paez said.

The office has not yet said whether the case is a double-murder and suicide or a triple homicide. No information has been released about how the Shivers died.

"We are respecting their day of mourning," Paez said. "One more day, it doesn't impact our investigation."

The Shivers' memorial service was held at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Parkway Baptist Church in Orlando, where the Shivers had lived.

Paez said his office only has preliminary results of its investigation anyway. He said investigators continued working as usual, despite the decision not to release information on Tuesday.

Divers began searching the area about 7 a.m. Tuesday, as they have every day since the Shivers' boat was found early Thursday.

Chief Otterbacher first called the Hernando Sheriff's Office shortly after 4:30 a.m. last Thursday, when he received a cell phone call from Joan Shiver, saying she was in danger.

An hour later, a search helicopter found the boat floating in Centipede Bay.

Paez said Otterbacher spoke on behalf of the family, not the Orange County Sheriff's Office, when he asked Nugent not to release information about the deaths on Tuesday.

And Paez said the decision to wait was based on timing, not Otterbacher's position.

"I can't recall a situation like this," Paez said.

"But I can't recall a situation where it's come up, where releasing information coincided with the timing of the funeral."

_ Mary Spicuzza can be reached by e-mail at