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Oba CHANDLER

 
 
 

 

FRAMING THE QUESTION: By the summer of 1992, three years after the murders, the detectives were willing to try almost anything. So they erected billboards around Tampa Bay, trying to get the attention of the public -- and of whoever held the key to solving the case.

 

 

EVIDENCE: As time went on, it seemed increasingly clear that whoever had written
these directions was almost certainly the killer.

 

 

TEAM EFFORT: These task force members had their picture taken in front of the big bulletin board filled with information and photos from the case. Left to right are Cindy Cummings, Robert Engelke, Linda Mattson, Larry Heim, J.J. Geoghegan, Don Crotty, Marilyn Johnson, Mark Franzman, Ron Noodwang, Katy Connor-Dubina, Mark Deasaro and Glen Moore.

 

 

HAUNTED: Jo Ann Steffey, seen here looking out her kitchen window, suffered nightmares about the murders.

 

 

DALTON AVENUE: By the time he became a suspect, Oba Chandler had moved away from
the house in Tampa where he lived at the time of the murders.

 

 

MOMENT OF REVELATION: Marilyn Johnson, seated here at her desk in the squad room,
raised her hand at the end of a task force meeting and made the observation
that told the detectives they had finally found the killer.

 

 

     

THE MATCH: The composite drawing from the Madeira Beach rape and Oba Chandler's photo.

 

 

SILENT WITNESSES: Three years after the murders, this Christmas photo of the Rogers girls -- taken
when Michelle was 8 and Christe was 6 -- still hung on the wall of the task force office,
spurring on the detectives as they closed in on their new suspect.

 

 

           

           

LIFE OF CRIME: These photos of Oba Chandler were taken after arrests on various charges
 in 1964, 1971, 1972, 1979, 1981 and 1982.

 

 

BRIDE AND GROOM: Oba Chandler and his wife, Debra, pose for photographs on their wedding day,
May 14, 1988, 10 days after Debra divorced.

 

 

Oba Chandler

 

 

THE SUSPECT: A snapshot of Oba Chandler, roughly around the time of the murders,
at the door of his Jeep Cherokee.

 

 

THE ARREST: Oba Chandler, led by FDLE agent John Halliday, is escorted into the Pinellas County jail
several hours after he was taken into custody on the east coast of Florida. Just before he was
brought into the jail, his hands were cuffed in front of his body.

 

 

PERSISTENCE: Steve Porter, an investigator with the state attorney's office, kept pushing until he finally obtained the phone records the prosecution needed to prove that Chandler had been on the water the night of the murders.

 

 

NEW EVIDENCE: This phone toll ticket documents a collect call Oba Chandler, identified here by his nickname of Obie, made from his boat on the morning after the murders. This toll ticket was one of a handful of crucial records discovered after a long search through microfilm.

 

 

IMAGINING THE WORST: Scott Hopkins, an investigator with the state attorney's office, sits on his boat near the place in Tampa Bay where Christe Rogers' body was recovered. One evening, a few months before the trial, Hopkins took his boat to this site and tried to understand what had happened to the Rogers women the night they were killed.

 

 

           

EVIDENCE: At top is the rope used to bind Jo Rogers' wrists. The middle piece bound Michelle's wrists;
the bottom bound Christe's. The ropes were entered as evidence when the case went to trial in September 1994.

 

 

IN COURT: Prosecutor Doug Crow was known for his intensity and skill inside the courtroom.
"Doug's the crackerjack," says another lawyer with the state. "There's no question about it."

(Times file photos (1994) -- Maurice Rivenbark)

 

 

CRUCIAL TESTIMONY: Kristal Mays, one of Oba Chandler's daughters, told the jurors that her father
had made incriminating statements to her during a visit not long after the murders.

(Times file photos (1994) -- Maurice Rivenbark)

 

 

TAKING THE OATH: From the moment the Canadian woman entered the courtroom,
it was clear the defense was in trouble. As she testified about the night of the rape,
she was completely, inescapably believable.

(Times file photos (1994) -- Maurice Rivenbark)

 

 

ON THE STAND: Hal Rogers, testifying as Doug Crow assists him with an exhibit,
did his best to remain calm during his appearance in the courtroom.

 

 

TRIAL STRATEGY:Attorneys, from left, Robert Santa Lucia, Fredric Zinober and their assistant,
Stephen DuQuesnay, listen to Oba Chandler at the defense table.

(Times file photos (1994) -- Maurice Rivenbark)

 

 

FEAR AND ANGER: Some of the jurors were so terrified of Oba Chandler that they could
hardly bear to make eye contact with him. Others wanted to slap him.

 

 

CROSS-EXAMINATION: Through most of the trial, Chandler maintained his composure.
But under questioning from prosecutor Doug Crow, he became flustered and combative.

(Times file photos (1994) -- Maurice Rivenbark)

 

 

THE BOAT: Chandler was still on the stand, testifying about the Bayliner he owned
at the time of the murders, when the prosecution dispatched Hensley to examine
the boat and compare it against Chandler's story.

(St. Petersburg Police Department photo)

 

 

FIRING BACK: James Hensley, a boat mechanic with the Florida Marine Patrol, obliterated
Chandler's account of how his boat broke down on the night of the murders.

 

 

GRATEFUL EMBRACE: When it came time for sentencing, seven of the jurors returned
to the courtroom to hear the judge's decision. Afterward, one of the seven,
Evelyn Calloway, hugged Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.

 

St. Petesburg Times

Staff Photographer Cherie Diez took the photos, except where noted. Her photos were taken this year.
Hal Rogers and his sister-in-law, Colleen Etzler, provided the Rogers family photos.

 

 

Oba Chandler on death row

 

 

Oba Chandler on death row
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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