TAMPA — A Lutz man already in custody on drug charges now faces a murder charge in the killing of a woman whose dismembered body was dumped in Tampa’s McKay Bay.
Robert Kessler, 69, was arrested on drug charges this week while police were investigating him in connection with the killing. He will now face additional charges of second-degree murder and abuse of a dead human body, Interim Police Chief Ruben Delgado said at a press conference Wednesday night.
The woman killed had been identified as Stephanie Crone-Overholts, 47, of Erie, Pa. Her age was not released by police.
Body parts were first spotted in McKay Bay on Nov. 11 by fishermen near the 22nd Street Causeway Bridge, police said. More body parts including a human leg with a tattoo were discovered the following day in McKay Bay, at the northeastern edge of Tampa Bay.
A photo of the tattoo was released by police and went viral online. Posts eventually made it back to Crone-Overholts’ family in Pennsylvania, who told police the tattoo — which featured three hearts with the names Sean, Greg and Zach below her lower right calf — belonged to Crone-Overholts.
The exact relationship between Kessler and Crone-Overholts was still unknown Wednesday, Delgado said. The two had been living together after meeting at a fast-food restaurant. After her family identified her as the woman killed, police say they searched Kessler’s van and his home. Both had Crone-Overholts’ blood inside, police said.
Police Chief Dan Spizarny in Erie, Pa., confirmed Wednesday that Crone-Overholts’ mother filed a missing persons report on her daughter Nov. 11, the day the body parts were found. Spinarzy declined to elaborate.
Contacted before Kessler’s arrest, Sean Overholts, the victim’s son, referred to a statement he issued earlier about his mother’s slaying: “My family and I are devastated. This has been a living nightmare. It is unimaginable what she went through. My mother will be deeply missed.”
WFLA-TV, Ch. 8 reported that it spoke with Kessler on Monday and he denied any involvement in her death. Kessler said they had met at a McDonald’s in north Tampa and he offered her a place to stay but soon afterward asked her to leave, the station reported.
Police said they do not know when Crone-Overholts was killed or when her dismembered body was dumped into the water. A motive behind the killing has not been released.
Kessler has faced criminal charges on some 40 occasions since 1986, mainly involving the sale of cocaine and related offenses in the Tampa Bay area, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. He has been sentenced to state prison at least four times, the longest for seven years in 2000 and the most recent for two years in 2011.
Delgado said the investigation included help from the sheriff’s offices in Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard.
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Staff writer Michaela Mulligan contributed to this report.