On the morning of June 4, 1989, the bodies of three women were found floating in Tampa Bay, Florida. Each had a yellow polypropylene rope tied around their necks.

“The other end of that rope was tied to a concrete block,” said retired S. Petersburg PD detective Cindy Leedy. “Family Massacre” aeration Fridays at 9/8c to Oxygen.

The hands, feet and mouths of the victims were bound with duct tape. They were nude from the waist down. Autopsies indicated that the cause of death was asphyxiation, either by drowning or by the ropes around his neck. The medical examiner determined they had been in the water between 50 and 60 hours, and because of that there was no evidence to determine whether the victims had been raped, investigators said.

The victims’ fingerprints did not match any in police records, but fDays after the bodies were discovered, a housekeeper at the Days Inn who had read about the murders said she knew hotel guests who had never returned to their rooms.

The tip led detectives to identify the victims: Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14. They were on vacation in Florida while Hal Rogers, Joan’s husband and the girls’ father, stayed home to tend to their dairy farm in Wilshire, Ohio.

On June 8, Tampa police located the Rogers’ car in the parking lot of a boat launch about two miles from their hotel. A tourist brochure and a Days Inn piece of paper with handwritten notes were taken as evidence. the the notes were directions to the boat launch where the car was found and included a reference to a blue and white boat.

The analysis of handwriting has become one of the axes of the investigation. Interviewing Hal Rogers was another.

The grieving father of the family cooperated with the police at every step. He explained that his loved ones took a necessary getaway. Michelle was allegedly sexually assaulted by her brother, John Rogers, who was convicted of raping an Ohio woman. John was in jail for this crime at the time of the murders, although Michelle refused to press charges because her uncle had threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone about him.

Had the uncle hired a tube behind the bars? Lead was sought out and eliminated. Hal Rogers was also cleared of suspicion at the start of the investigation.

Detectives released information about the blue and white boat in hopes it would find leads. Tips poured in but none came through.

In October 1989, the Tampa police still had no suspects. But then one of the detectives on the case learned that a rape had been reported at nearby Madeira Beach on May 15, just two weeks before the Rogers murders.

A tourist from Canada had boarded a blue and white boat with a man who had invited her to take a sunset cruise. He asked for sex and when she refused, he raped her. He threatened to tape her over her mouth and throw her in the water if she didn’t cooperate. The man had told her that he owned an aluminum business and lived two hours from Madeira Beach by boat. A composite sketch of the alleged rapist was made based on the victim’s story.

The police sketch was made public but did not result in any viable leads. After a year, the affair risked cooling down. Investigators continued to pursue the handwriting trail as well as aluminum-related businesses in Florida. Corn February 1992, two and a half years after the murders, a new police chief was ready to unplug the case. He gave detectives six more months.

Investigators redoubled their efforts. Billboards with pictures of the Rogers were erected in May 1992 near where the crime actually happened. At the same time, Glen Moore, retired sergeant of the Saint Petersburg PD, publicized the handwriting of the brochure in the media.

“I craned my neck a lot when I said, ‘If you find the person who wrote this writing, you’ll find the killer,'” Moore explained.

On July 30, 1992, the pamphlet’s handwriting was shared on Tampa billboards. The following day, investigators received a call from a local woman who said she had contacted police when the handwriting sample appeared in the newspaper six weeks earlier.

“At that time she faxed us a copy of a contract which she said matched what we had published in the newspaper,” Leedy said.

The contract was written by a man who installed aluminum enclosures. Her name: Oba Chandler. DInvestigators found he owned a blue and white boat which he sold shortly after the murders. A handwriting expert matched Chandler’s handwriting with the handwriting on the evidence. Investigators also found that Chandler had 18 arrests as a minor, as well as adult felony arrests for rape, robbery, kidnapping and robbery. Also, Chandler matched the composite sketch perfectly.

The police decided to arrest Chandler, who was married and had a young daughter, but discovered he had left town. Authorities found him at a gas station on his way back to Florida. He was charged with the rape of the Canadian tourist and detectives worked to build a case that would allow them to arrest Chandler for the Rogers murders.

Chandler’s phone records, which placed him on the water the night of the murder, along with other evidence, convinced the prosecutor to press the murders.

At the trial, Chandler spoke. He admitted to writing on the brochure. He said he gave instructions and that’s where his involvement began and ended. He claimed he was on the water near the crime scene because he had had a problem with his boat’s gas line.

Ultimately, the jury found Chandler guilty on all three counts of murder. On November 15, 2011, Chandler, 65, who had always maintained his innocence, death by lethal injection in a Florida correctional facility.

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