Tourist Trap: The Murder of the Rogers Family

Mar 12, 2012 - by Fred Shrum, III

Joan, Michelle and Christe Rogers

Joan, Michelle and Christe Rogers

On June 4, 1989, the bodies of Joan, Michelle and Christe Rogers were found floating in the serene waters of TampaBay. They were stripped below the waist, bound, and tied to concrete blocks. How could such a tragedy strike in paradise?

by Fred Shrum, III

They were going on vacation! It was a trip that may seem normal to some.  But to the Rogers family, it was the trip of a lifetime.  They were going to Florida to make some memories.  But Florida would literally become a tourist trap for Jo, Michelle and Christe.  They would not make it home alive.

The Rogers women were going to experience Florida in the classic fashion. They would color their days with beaches, attractions, and maybe even a visit to Mickey Mouse. This would be a welcome respite from their daily grind spent on a 300-acre dairy farm in Ohio. They were determined to enjoy every moment.

Why was Florida such a welcome change? Have you ever worked on a farm? Imagine an existence where no matter how tired or sick you are, or how cold or hot it is outside, there is work that has to be done. No exceptions. You awake in darkness to greet 80 cows that need to be milked.  By the time you are finished, it’s only first light.  You step out of the milking parlor and gaze at the fields that seem to go on forever.  There are crops that need constant attention.  Around late afternoon all 80 cows are calling out to be milked again.  You may have worked enough by nightfall.  Once you get in there is laundry, cooking, and other housework. Then you wake the next morning and start all over again.  You do this every single day.  How does Florida sound now?

 

Hal Rogers, 37, the quiet and slender patriarch, would not be going on vacation with his family. There was simply no way to get away from the farm work. Sometimes while reaping he would go three days without sleep. The annual rain cycle was off this year, so he was late planting his crops. If he did not get them in the ground right away he would miss the harvest.

The women already helped him so much.  They worked on the farm in addition to outside jobs and school. Jo regularly worked a midnight shift at Peyton Northern, a food warehouse, just to qualify her family for health insurance. Often Michelle and Christe would wake early in order to get some chores done before school. It would be the first family vacation of their lives, so Hal made sure they took it.

Jo Rogers, 36, got behind the wheel of their blue 1986 Oldsmobile Calais. Riding shotgun was probably Michelle, 17, the quiet yet personable daughter.  Christe, 14, the cheerleader and father’s favorite, rounded out the trio. On Friday, May 26, 1989 the Rogers family left their home near Willshire, Ohio, and set a course for their tropical oasis.

The first Florida stop was the Jacksonville Zoo. Next was Silver Springs. This attraction is famous for its boats that feature glass bottoms. The morning of May 29 began a breakneck speed of activities. They wanted to fit in as much as time would allow. Over the next several days they hit Sea World, Epcot Center, and MGM Studios. June 1 found the Calais cruising into Tampa. They planned to hit Busch Gardens and possibly the gulf beaches. They arrived at the Days Inn at Rocky Point, Room 251. The hotel overlooked the shoreline of Tampa Bay. This would be their Waterloo.

They were seen for the last time that night. A businessman in the hotel’s restaurant observed them at dinner. He sat down around 7 p.m. A woman and two teenage girls sat at a table nearby. He didn’t mean to stare; they were simply right in front of him. He could not hear exactly what they were saying, but did notice by their tone that the mood was jovial. Laughs and jokes all around. When the women finished eating and got up to leave, Michelle cast him a glance. “Hi,” she said, and then walked out into the night.

Back in Ohio, Hal was worried. It was June 4, the day the women were to return. He had not heard from them in several days. He kept walking out and checking the driveway for the Calais. “They’re probably just dinking around someplace,” he commented to a friend. It wasn’t like Jo to be late. Hal thought they would at least have called when they left Florida. Jo had to be back at work on Monday and Michelle’s summer school classes were about to start. Where were his girls?

June 4 had begun in splendor down in Florida. The forecast called for sunny and hot day with some afternoon thundershowers.  A radio call came into the Coast Guard station at 9:20 a.m. The sailboat Amber Waves had just passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  People aboard saw what appeared to be a human body floating in the water. “It looks like murder,” the caller said ominously.

The sailboat Suzy was two miles east of the St. Petersburg Pier. The people aboard too saw a body. After the crew delivered their first find at 10:24 a.m., they rushed to pick up the second body. A third call came in from the pleasure boat Charlie Girl. A body about two miles from the Pier had been spotted.  The third body was recovered about 12:08 p.m.

All the bodies were laid out at the Coast Guard station for the waiting investigators. The circumstances were the same:  all three were nude from the waist down, tied hand and foot. The second victim had managed to wrangle one of her hands free. The second and third victims had ropes around their necks that were tied to large cinder blocks. The first victim also had a rope around her neck, but since it was cut by the Coast Guard, it was assumed that a cinder block had been tied to that rope as well.

Police detectives began the arduous task of understanding. A quick once-over of the bodies revealed no blunt trauma. They would not know anything until the autopsy results were revealed. But at first blush it appeared as though the women were sexually assaulted, bound, gagged, weighed down with concrete, and then tossed overboard alive. It was a fate that seemed too terrible to believe.

The first rule of homicide investigation is that you cannot go searching for a killer until you know the identity of the victim. The police had nothing to go on. The unforgiving waves of the bay had washed away any real clues. There was no identification on the bodies. None of the victims had any scars or tattoos. Decomposition was so advanced that nobody could tell one of the victims was a child. There were no local reports of three women missing.

Who were these women? Where were they from? Why had their lives ended so violently?

Hal awoke on June 7 and was in a panic. After days of thinking about traffic accidents or robberies, his mind had switched to more dire thoughts. Calls to the Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Office had bore no fruit.  “Somebody had done something to them,” he said. “That was the way my mind was working.” Thinking he may need to make a sudden trip, Hal withdrew $7,000 in cash from the bank. He was going to conduct his own search. He never got a chance to leave the farm.

The next morning, June 8, a maid at the Days Inn in Tampa had an uneasy feeling. Room 251 had been cleaned every day for a week, but nothing in the room had changed.  Her manager called Tampa Police. The responding officer learned that a Joan Rogers had checked in on June 1 with her two daughters. The room was quickly sealed off and inspected by Tampa homicide detectives. St. Petersburg Police had jurisdiction over the triple homicide, so they arrived promptly.

A lab technician matched fingerprints from the room, specifically from a tube of Oral-B Sesame Street toothpaste, to fingerprints taken from the victims pulled from the bay. The identification was also confirmed by forensic odontologist by matching the dental records of the bodies to ones sent from Ohio. All that was left was to notify the next of kin.

That afternoon, Sheriff Stan Owens of Van Wert County showed up at the Rogers farm and broke the news to Hal. “Not all of them,” he told a friend. “Why everybody?” Hal probably wanted to collapse, but couldn’t. Somebody had to milk the cows. Hal kept working with tears streaming down.

Back at the Days Inn, the investigation continued. The Calais was not in the parking lot. Since the women were found in the water, police started looking for the car at the closest spot where they could have boarded a boat.  They found a blue car about three miles away from the hotel, at a boat ramp along the Courtney Campbell Causeway. It had Ohio plates. They ran the tag and it was registered to a Joan M. Rogers.

Not many clues were in the Calais. The passenger seat was pushed back, meaning that there were probably three people in the car. They found a sheet of Days Inn stationary. It contained directions written in Jo’s hand.  The directions said:

Turn rt (w on 60) – 2 ½ mi – on rt side alt before bridge

Beside the directions was a description:

Blue w/wht

Billboard in the Case
Billboard in the Case

Investigators asked around and determined that a dark sports utility vehicle, hauling a blue and white boat, had been observed in the hotel parking lot around the time the Rogers were staying there.  These clues were good information, but hardly definitive. Florida was teeming with dark SUVs and blue and white boats. There was no specificity. The search of the Calais did provide one lead that appeared fruitful.

A Clearwater Beach brochure was found in the car. A map of Tampa Bay was on the back. The map had directions that described how to get to the hotel. The funny thing was, the directions were in a handwriting that was different than the Rogers. Surely the mystery person would have information on the case. The police plastered a picture of these directions all over the local media. They also offered a $5,000 reward for information that lead to a conviction.

Public response was overwhelming. Over 800 tips came in during the first few weeks. Investigators sorted the tips by urgency level and followed up on them all. Unfortunately, they reached a dead end with all of them. “We’ve worked it hard,” said St. Petersburg Police Sergeant Bill Sanders. “But we just haven’t gotten anywhere.”

A triple funeral was held on June 13 at Zion Lutheran Church in Willshire. The place was overflowing with people. “You may be asking yourselves now, where was God”, thundered Reverend Gary Luderman, pastor of Zion. “Where was God when Joan and her daughters were crying out in pain, when these terrible things were happening to them in Tampa Bay? God was with them. They were not going towards death, but toward life.” Silence filled the church, but the mourners could hear the sound of a sparrow singing outside.

Mourners were weeping and holding each other. The only exception was Hal. He sat silently, barely moving, with no expression on his face. After the interment, he went back into the chapel. He sat in a pew, alone, quiet, for a long time. Then he went home to feed the cows. Somebody had to.

Spouses are normally one of the first suspects in a murder case, and Hal was no exception. Townies remarked about how he always wore dark glasses. He showed no emotion though his family had been ripped away. Why did he keep to himself instead of going to others for support? Was he in cahoots with his brother, who was accused of raping Michelle years ago? Was Hal set up for any financial gain?

Rogers Family
Rogers Family

Hal had life insurance on the women, yes. But it was not a large enough policy to raise suspicion. Investigators did wonder about the $7,000 cash. Hal withdrew this money from his bank account after the girls were killed but before they were identified.  Was Hal involved in a murder-for-hire? Hal explained that he had withdrawn the cash to pay for travel, but then had not used it because his family was dead. Detectives sympathized, but then asked point-blank where the cash was. Hal calmly walked them to his pickup truck. Inside the glove box was $6,000 cash, and he pulled the remaining $1,000 from his pocket. The detectives went back to Florida with no new clues. Hal volunteered to take a polygraph test. He passed, and was officially cleared as a suspect by the police.

Detectives were now set on the idea that the Rogers women had met their killer in Florida. They were intrigued when it was brought to their attention that there was an unsolved rape of a Canadian tourist. The crime occurred just two weeks before the murders, and had many similarities. First, the rape occurred in Madeira Beach, just miles away. Second, the victim went on a ride in a blue and white boat. An affable stranger took her on the boat and then raped her at sea. Third, the rapist drove a dark SUV. This new information was simply too much to ignore.

The rape victim agreed to a full interview with the homicide detectives. She gave information that led to a composite drawing of the rape suspect. This drawing was sent to the media, along with the description of the boat. Public response was again overwhelming. Over 400 new tips were received and the task force was tripled to meet the demand. Eventually all the tips were deemed worthless.

Rogers Family Billboard
Rogers Family Billboard

Now a year had passed since the murders and the investigators still had yet to identify a suspect. Members of the task force were putting in 14 hour days, missing important dates in their personal lives, and they still had nothing. Sergeant Glen Moore decided that the investigation should start again from scratch. The current detectives were reassigned and a brand new set of eyes started sifting. Sergeant Moore did not place any blame; he simply thought the Rogers deserved a fresh crack at justice.

There were still no fresh leads by the spring of 1992. Moore decided to push harder with the media. He released information from a psychological profile that was prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The reward was raised to $25,000. Moore held press conferences and had the case featured on such national television shows as “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Diabolical Minds:  Case Studies.” Something clicked this time.

Jo Ann Steffey of Tampa was convinced that her neighbor was the killer. She had reported her suspicions to the police before but nothing ever came of it. She was thinking of calling in again. She had bad vibes about her neighbor from the first time she saw him, which was years before the murders. The man had moved out of the neighborhood two years ago but Steffey still felt that he was the suspect. Moore’s press conference had stirred those emotions again.

Composite of Suspect
Composite of Suspect

Steffey had the composite of the Madeira Beach rape suspect plastered on her fridge. The composite showed a white male, in his mid-to-late thirties, with reddish-blond hair, a high forehead, and a moustache. The man was expected to be five foot eight inches tall and weigh around 190 pounds. The suspect looked just like Steffey’s neighbor. He drove a dark vehicle, and owned a blue and white boat. Plus, her neighbor fit the FBI profile: he was gainfully employed, clean, well-mannered, intelligent. She remembered an instance where the man was walking his dog and she saw him through her window.  They locked eyes for several minutes before he walked off.  It gave her the creeps.

After watching the latest press conference, Steffey started thinking about the directions that were written in a mystery hand.  She realized that a different neighbor had hired the man to do some home maintenance.  She went to her neighbor’s house where they found a contract and a check signed by the man. His handwriting was a perfect match to the one in question. The man’s name was Oba Chandler. They called the task force and were given permission to fax in the information.

A month or so later, outdoor advertising giant Patrick Media Group donated billboards throughout the city to help solve the case. One of the billboards asked, “Who wrote these directions? You may know who killed the Rogers family.” Steffey called the task force when she saw this. Why hadn’t investigators followed up on her handwriting sample that was submitted several weeks ago? They blamed a backlog of tips and asked her to be patient.

After several more calls and a strongly worded letter, Steffey and Mozelle Smith’s tip got the attention it deserved. Civilian investigator Eileen Przybyz brought the handwriting to Sergeant Moore’s directly. Moore thought it looked promising so he sent Detective Geoghegan to get the original. Back at the office they compared the writing several times. The similarity convinced them to get some more information on the man. What they found was incredible.

Oba Chandler
Oba Chandler

The man who signed the contract, an Oba Chandler, now lived on the east coast of Florida. But at the time of the murders he lived two miles away from the boat ramp where the Calais was found. Back then he drove a dark blue Jeep Cherokee – using it to haul a blue and white boat. Chandler had a rap sheet a mile long. Moore was ecstatic at this new lead but did not want to get his hopes up.

After finding out as much information as possible about Chandler, Moore held a meeting to discuss the new suspect with everyone. When the meeting was over he asked everyone in the room for their ideas. Marilyn Johnson, an office assistant, pointed out something so simple that none of the detectives had bothered to check for it. Gleaning from a probation photo of Chandler, she observed, “I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but this guy looks just like the composite.” Moore’s jaw dropped wide open. “You’re right” he exclaimed.  It had taken three years but Moore was now confident that they had their man.

Moore couldn’t get a warrant on a hunch. He decided that the quickest way to get Chandler behind bars would be to get him on the rape charge of the Canadian tourist. He partnered with the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  The Port Orange home was put under constant surveillance. A wire tap was placed on the phone. Oba himself was tailed everywhere he went. An FBI plane even flew high above the house to capture any movement. Law enforcement officials got the Canadian tourist and her friend to positively identify Chandler through photographs. Their story seemed sturdy enough to hold up in court. The judge cut a warrant for Chandler. He was arrested outside a gas station without incident.

Getting Chandler off the streets now gave detectives time to build a case. The police were able to locate and purchase Chandler’s blue and white boat for evidence. The Canadian tourist and her friend flew down to Pinellas County and identified Chandler in a lineup. A search of Chandler’s home turned up a green mesh shirt that the tourist had described Chandler as wearing during the rape. But most damning was Chandler’s own words. He had visited one of his daughters, Kristal Mays, in Cincinnati. Mays reported that Chandler showed up unexpectedly in 1989, shortly after the composite drawing had been presented to the media. During his visit he had told Kristal and her husband that he had raped a couple of women in his boat. He also said that he had “murdered three women.” This testimony allowed a grand jury to officially file three charges of first degree murder against Oba Chandler.

 

The Trial

The opening gavel in Chandler’s trial fell on September 19, 1994, two years after the arrest. The prosecution did not have an eyewitness or physical evidence, so a guilty verdict was not a sure thing. The defense would cling to that fact. Yet the prosecution was determined to nail Chandler to the wall. They simply feared the prospect of him walking the streets again.

Opening statements showed meticulous planning on both sides. Lead prosecutor Doug Crow led the jury through a tale of habitual rape, murder, cover up, and lack of remorse. Fred Zinober, defense attorney, had a simple defense. He would not deny the rape of the Canadian woman. He would not even deny that Chandler had met the Rogers. He explained that there was no proof that Chandler did anything besides give the Rogers directions.

Oba Chandler
Oba Chandler

For Chandler’s part, he viewed the proceedings with bored indifference. He flashed a smile, projecting to the jury that the trial was a nuisance that would eventually resolve itself. Wearing khakis and dark reading glasses, he looked more like a friendly neighbor than a killer. His cheery facade would not last.

Much testimony was given against Chandler. Forensic experts testified that Chandler’s handwriting matched the handwriting on the brochure found in Jo’s car. A print analyst testified that a palm print on the brochure matched Chandler’s. Kristal Mays told the jury about his visit and incriminating statements. A coworker explained that Chandler told him that he had “a date with three women” on the day of the murders. He also said that Chandler seemed disheveled at work the next day. When prompted Chandler explained that he had been out “on the boat all night.”

The Canadian tourist gave a heart-wrenching testimony of her rape. She told how Chandler met her and a friend in the parking lot of a convenience store. He offered them a ride. They accepted and told them that they were tourists. Chandler warned them that they were staying in a high crime area and they should not trust anyone. When Chandler dropped them off he offered to take them on a boat ride the next day.  They accepted.

The woman went on the boat with Chandler twice that day. Both times she did not bring her friend, and both times Chandler seemed increasingly annoyed that the woman came alone. But he got over it and they had a good time. They went out from morning until afternoon. The woman went to dinner alone, then came back to go on a sunset cruise. That is when it happened.

Together they cruised the Gulf of Mexico. When darkness fell the woman requested to go ashore. She said people were waiting for her back on land. That is when Chandler’s personality turned. When she denied a hug he pulled her close and started touching her. He told her they were going to have sex.

She panicked at that point. She ran away and started screaming. Chandler retorted by saying “You think somebody is going to hear you”? He also taunted her by saying “What are you going to do, jump off the boat?” He started the boat and drove farther out to sea.

He told her again he was going to have sex with her, and if she did not do it willingly, he would tape her mouth with duct tape. “Is sex worth losing your life over?” he asked.  He raped her three times. Back to shore, he told her to be careful as she was stepping out onto the dock.

Crow asked the woman if the rapist was in courtroom.  She said yes and pointed directly at Chandler.

Zinober countered with questions of his own. Just as he said, Chandler never denied raping this woman. What did it have to do with the Rogers family? The tourist rape did not have any similarities to the Rogers murder, he retorted. There were no ropes on the boat. Chandler did not show a weapon. He did not threaten to throw the woman overboard. The problem for the defense was that the witness was so credible that the jury believed her. They also believed that the similarities to the murders were relevant.

Another big piece of evidence was the phone records. Investigators found incoming calls to Chandler’s home around the time of both the rape of the Canadian tourist and around the time of the murders. The incoming phone number was unusual. Upon further research detectives found it was a marine number. The calls came from a person on a boat. The boater would radio a marine operator.  The operator would forward the call to a land line.  The marine operator is required to take the name of the boat and the caller. The calls were from a boat named the Gypsy I, Chandler’s boat. The name of the caller was listed as either Oba or Obi. This placed Chandler on the water during the time of the murders.

The defense had no choice but to admit that Chandler was on the water those days. But that did not prove he was a murder.  He was simply a fisherman.  There was no proof that the Rogers women were with him when he was on the water. They showed Chandler’s prize fishing rod as proof that he loved fishing.

After weeks of testimony and nearly 100 witnesses, the defense called one Oba Chandler. Dressed in a blazer and tie, Chandler spoke in a normal tone and projected a pleasant demeanor. Was this the murderer of three women?  No, he claimed.

Zinober walked through the basics before going to the heart of the matter. Chandler admitted meeting the Rogers family at a gas station. He wrote directions on a brochure for them before sending them on their way. “Total conversation, two minutes,” Chandler quipped. Zinober asked point blank if he killed the women. No, Chandler said. He did not kill those women. They never stepped foot on his boat. He never saw them again after their brief encounter.

Chandler told how he was fishing in his boat on the night of the murders. He explained that around 9:30 or 10 he started having problems with his engine. That is why he called his wife at home. He described the ailment: “The engine died. I tried to start it again, it ran for a second and stopped. Uh, couldn’t really figure it out, got my big spotlight out, and looking to see what the problem was. Started smelling gas, pulled my hatch away from the engine area and I could smell gas in my bilge area. My bilge had been pumping gas and I had a broken hose. I was totally out of gas.”

Chandler claimed that he slept on the boat that night. The next morning he sealed the gas line with tape. He flagged down a passing Coast Guard inflatable unit to tow him in the next morning. The three men aboard told him they were too busy looking for a body, so they would come back to help him later. Another passing boat pulled him in.

Chandler’s attitude changed during cross examination. Doug Crow went at him full-bore. As the questions kept coming Chandler’s answers became more evasive. He grew increasingly agitated with Crow. Chandler invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 16 times when asked about the rape of the Canadian tourist. Crow was pleased.

Crow’s plan was not to crack Chandler’s alibi about his boat trouble. He actually wanted Chandler to expand on it, hoping that Chandler would give a detail that would trip him up. Chandler did just that. Crow called two witnesses that put holes in Chandler’s story. 

Robert Shidner, a Coast Guardsman, testified first. He told how there was no Coast Guard inflatable on the bay that morning. They had no record of refusing help to a boater, and they were not looking for any bodies that morning. Furthermore, such boats only have two crew members aboard. They would only need three if they knew before they left the station that there would be heavy lifting involved. Chandler had slipped, probably by seeing a photo of an inflatable with three members pulling one of the bodies aboard in the newspaper.

James A Hensley testified next. He was a Florida Marine Patrol expert, who had examined Chandler’s boat.  He testified that there was no way for the type of engine on Chandler’s boat to malfunction in the way that he described. An anti-siphon valve on the engine would not allow it. Even if the valve failed, the fuel line was at the top of the engine.  Fluids do not drain uphill.  Even if gasoline had somehow made it into the bilge, and Chandler tried to start the engine as he explained, the engine surely would have exploded.

This explanation placed a final wedge of distrust into the jury. They were now convinced that Chandler was lying about the boat and any other number of things. Closing statements came on Thursday, September 29. They did nothing to sway the jury.

The jury took 80 minutes to render Chandler guilty on all three charges of first degree murder. After 30 more minutes of deliberation they called for the death penalty. Chandler sat and grinned.

On November 4, 1994, with Hal present, Judge Schaffer sentenced Chandler to death. “One victim was first,” she intoned. “Two watched. Imagine the fear. One victim was second. One watched. Imagine the horror. Finally, the last victim, who had seen the other two disappear over the side was lifted up and thrown overboard. Imagine the terror.” Chandler spent many years in prison until his appeals, and his life, clicked away.

Oba Chandler
Oba Chandler

Hal was glad that Chandler was convicted and sentenced. However, that did not bring back his family. Hal had a hard time adjusting to life after the murders of his wife and children. First, he had violent thoughts of vengeance against Chandler. Then a deep depression set in. At one point Hal considered suicide. With more thought, he dismissed it. "That's the way the devil wins," he says. "I'm not gonna go down in a hole. I been there enough." He had trouble sleeping in the bed that he shared with Jo. Some nights he would sleep in the Calais, dozing off while listening to the radio. Other nights he would fall asleep in his recliner while watching television.

"I've just kind of wandered through life," Hal says. "I've just done enough to get by." Hal never went to counseling. He did go to a group therapy session, but only once. It was a support group for people who had lost their children unexpectedly. The group seemed overwhelmed by Hal’s story and the size of his loss. He felt uncomfortable and never went back.

In lieu of therapy, Hal turned to his friends for solace. "Friends," he says, "were the only thing I had." But Hal knows he still has a long road ahead of him. "You step back, and you say, Jesus Christ, it's been eight years. It don't feel like I've done anything or made any progress…I know I have, but it don't feel like it.”

Hal has given up trying to understand why his girls were taken from him. He believes that there must be a reason, even if he does not understand. "We ain't gonna know," he says. "There's some things there's just no answers to."

Hal has learned that time does not necessarily heal all wounds. But love helps. “You don’t ever get over it. You just learn to move on,” he observes. Hal continued working and living on his farm. The cows he used to milk with the girls have been replaced by 5,000 pigs. In 1998 he married a woman named Jolene Keefer. Jolene already had four kids of her own, but wanted to have some with Hal. They tried for a long time but gave up after several miscarriages. Jolene knew that when she married Hal, she was also marrying Jo, Michelle, and Christe. "Sometimes I do have to fight ghosts,” she admits. Still, Jolene has done her best to love and comfort Hal. He is appreciative.

Hal notes that he rarely thinks about Chandler anymore. His girls, yes, but not Chandler. Hal almost never utters the killer’s name. Not because he is afraid, but because the man does not deserve that small courtesy. Hal thought that Chandler was not even worth the trip to see the execution. “He’s just going to die. Big deal,” Hal says. He only agreed to attend when his niece, Michelle and Christe’s cousin, told him she was going. Hal did not want her to travel to Florida alone.

Hal and other family members gathered in Starke, Florida, at the Florida State Prison. The day was November 15, 2011, and they had come to witness the execution of Oba Chandler. Gone was the young, smooth-talking charmer. Now looking like an elderly hospital patient, Chandler was dressed in a gown and strapped to a gurney. When asked if he had any last words, Chandler barked “No.”  The first chemical was injected into his veins and within 17 minutes Chandler was pronounced dead.

Oba Chandler's Last Statement

Oba Chandler's Last Statement

Hal could not describe his feelings, but was happy to be done with Chandler. "There's never going to be justice, okay?" Hal said. "He'd be dead and they'd come back. That would be justice." He spoke of heaven and hell, the devil and God. “I seen hell,” Hal remarked. “The devil ain’t as smart as he thinks he is. I like to say that I spit in his eye. I ain’t afraid of him.”

 

Sources

 

Davis, Don. Death Cruise. New York: St. Martin, 1996. Print.

French, Thomas. “Angels & Demons.” St. Petersburg Times. 1999. http://www.2.sptimes.com/Angels_Demons/default.html

French, Thomas. “Watching Oba Chandler die brings relief, but no justice, for tormented husband, father.” St. Petersburg Times 16 November 11. Print.

Shaw, Rob. “Triple Murderer Oba Chandler dies of lethal injection.” Tampa Tribune 15 November 11. Print.

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