June 4, 1989: Joan Rogers and her two daughters are found floating in Tampa Bay. Joan (36), Michelle (17), and Christie (14) were in Florida for the first time. They left their dairy farm in Willshire, Ohio for a vacation down south, the first time they had ever left their home state. On June 1, the trio met Oba Chandler, a man with a long criminal record. They first met in Orlando, but Chandler offered to take the women on a boat ride in Tampa Bay. Rogers and her daughters traveled south and took a room at the Days Inn. It is believed they boarded Chandler’s boat around 7:30 PM on June 1. They were all dead by 3 AM.
Chandler was then a 42-year-old from Cincinnati, about 100 miles away from the Rogers’s farm. Chandler’s early life was a tragedy in the making. His father committed suicide in the family home when Oba was ten. Oba, overcome with grief threw himself into the grave at the funeral. He spun out of control and was arrested 20 times while still a juvenile, often for car theft. After reaching adulthood, Chandler’s criminal activity expanded. He began passing counterfeit money, continued with burglary, and added kidnapping and armed robbery to his list of crimes. He also was arrested for masturbating while peeking through a woman’s window.
The three bodies were found floating in Tampa Bay on this day with their hands and feet bound and concrete blocks tied around their necks. Duct tape was over their mouths. The first body was found near Sunshine Skyway, a bridge crossing from Tampa to St. Petersburg. A second body was found 2 miles off The Pier in St. Petersburg and while the Coast Guard was recovering it, a third body was found a couple hundred yards away. According to autopsies, the women were alive when thrown into the water. All three were only partially dressed and sexual assault is assumed, but due to the length of time in the water, it was not provable.
The case took years to solve. Chandler was finally arrested on September 24, 1992. During his trial, Chandler took the stand in his own defense. He admitted to being on the water on the night in question, but claimed to be fishing and then had engine trouble. He changed his story multiple times while on the stand. Other witnesses contributed to the evidence pointing to Chandler’s guilt. He was, in fact, found guilty and sentenced to death on November 4, 1994. Chandler was executed on November 15, 2011 by lethal injection in accordance with a death warrant signed by Governor Rick Scott on October 10 of that year.
They need to do this swiftly. The man is a mutation of a human being and he needs to be destroyed. – foreman of the jury, commenting on the death sentence handed down
It’s frightening how easy it is to commit murder in America. Just a drink too much. I can see myself doing it. In England, one feels all the social restraints holding one back. But here, anything can happen. – W. H. Auden
Over the years you encounter just about every kind of crime. It doesn’t harden you, but you become capable of reporting on just about anything human beings can do. However, any time we’re dealing with the murder of a child it is always difficult. – Catherine Crier
The difference between humans and wild animals is that humans pray before they commit murder. – Friedrich Durrenmatt
Also on this day:
Consumerism’s Helper – In 1937 Sylvan Goldman got creative and boosted sales.
Congratulations – In 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
Bravery - In 1989. Tank Man faces a row of Chinese tanks.