Welcome to Florida: Don’t Go Near the Water (with Oba Chandler)

Mug shot of Oba Chandler.

Oba Chandler mugshot, image via Wikipedia

(Author’s Note: This story was originally published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Orlando Sentinel, and Weekly Planet in 1993. Every time Oba Chandler’s name has recurred in the press, I get calls about it. Joan Rogers and her daughters, Michelle and Christe, were brutally murdered on June 1, 1989. Several years later, after an intensive national manhunt, Chandler was convicted of the crime.

(On October 10, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant for Chandler; the execution is scheduled for November 15, 2011. Because of a resurgence of interest in the case, I’m re-presenting the story here, as it appeared in 1993. You can read about more recent developments  in the St. Petersburg Times.)

Kristal Sue Mays held her breath and listened. The private investigator said he had found her father, yet the news was not good. Oh, he was alive. But the man who walked out on her mother, herself and her sister in Bond Hill, Ohio, in 1970 when Kristal was 7 was now serving time in a Florida state prison.

That wouldn’t surprise her mother. She refused to tell her two daughters anything about the man who fathered them, believing he would bring nothing but tragedy and heartbreak to their doorstep.

Mother was right.

Finding her father that day in 1986 did nothing to improve the quality of Kristal’s life. She was never as sure of that as she was three years later, in November 1989, as she ran into the bathroom of his Sharonville, Ohio, motel room, locked the door and wanted to throw up. Her father, Oba Chandler, in a moment of rare repentance, was confessing to Kristal and her husband, Rick, how he spent his recent summer vacation in Tampa Bay, Florida.

On the Farm
Joan and Hal Rogers were Willshire, Ohio, dairy farmers who married right after high school. “They made a good match,” wrote Christopher Evans in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Hal, a self-described loner who preferred hard work to hanging out, and Jo, a popular Pep Clubber who made friends like Hal made money.”

The Rogers eventually bought his parents’ 200-acre farm, where Michelle and Christe were born and raised. Hal’s younger brother, John, an ex-Marine, lived in a trailer on the property and worked side-by-side with his brother. Before and after school each day, the girls were paid to milk the cows. Joan worked nights at a distribution warehouse just over the state line in Indiana, then she’d come home and help with the milking.

This was a family that worked hard, every day.

Beyond work, Michelle endured unspeakable late-night horrors. Starting when she turned 14, the older Rogers daughter was sadistically sexually assaulted repeatedly by her Uncle John. The crimes were discovered when police found a videotape in Rogers’ briefcase showing a masked man raping a woman in his trailer. Compromising photographs of Michelle were also found. John Rogers was arrested and charged with seven counts of rape three against Michelle. A plea bargain led to all but one of the charges including all three relating to Michelle being dropped. John Rogers never admitted guilt but was sentenced to a 7 to 25 years in prison after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

But confounding the Willshire community and especially the Rogers women, Hal Rogers bailed his brother out when the charges were first filed in March 1988 and brought John back to the farm. No one ever forgave Hal for being so completely insensitive to his daughter.

* * *

On May 26, 1989, the women left Hal behind at the farm for a dream vacation in Florida. The girls Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14 were finally old enough for Joan, 37, to enjoy their company as adult companions and she looked forward to spending time with her daughters. It was also a chance for Michelle to get past the trauma of the assaults.

The Rogers women visited as many attractions as they could Walt Disney World, Sea World and Silver Springs. They shot several rolls of film with their Nikon One Touch camera, then headed west for the beaches of west central Florida.

They left Disney World early in the morning on Thursday, June 1, and drove west to Tampa, where they intended to check into the Days Inn Rocky Point and hit the Gulf beaches. Somewhere along the way, Joan Rogers got lost. She asked a stranger for directions at an interstate exit. He wrote them down over the map on a Clearwater Beach brochure “Boyscout Columbus” “Days Inn Rt 60 Courtney Causeway” and drew a line from I-275 to the hotel.

Thanks to the help, they found the motel and checked in. Either when they got the directions or in a subsequent call to the motel, the stranger invited the family to go out on his boat for a pleasure cruise. On Days Inn stationery, Joan wrote the directions from their motel to the boat ramp where they would meet him, two miles away, and noted the description of the stranger’s boat “blue W/Wht.” Excited about the prospects of a sunset cruise, the women promised to meet the affable stranger after they checked in.

Settling in their room, Michelle called her boyfriend back home in Ohio. Joan called the general information number at Busch Gardens amusement park for hours and prices. They changed into bathing suits and left to meet the generous stranger at the boat ramp. His directions were perfect.

The man told Joan to take the Courtney Campbell Parkway west from the motel about two miles and turn right at the last light before a bridge. She’d see the boat ramp when they arrived.

Joan parked her blue, two-door Oldsmobile Calais near the ramp and she and the girls boarded the man’s boat.

Three days later a boater discovered Michelle Rogers floating in the waters of Tampa Bay, her mouth gagged with silver duct tape, her feet and arms bound behind her back with yellow nylon rope and weighted with concrete blocks. Joan and Christe were found not long after in the same condition.

Cause of death was officially asphyxia suffocation because the medical examiner could not determine if the women were thrown overboard while still alive. There were no other signs of trauma, suggesting their tormentor used the threat of force rather than actual force to control them. The bodies were so decomposed that the medical examiner could not determine if they were sexually assaulted.

Experts told police that the tides in Tampa Bay form a regular pattern, but that it would be extremely difficult to determine where the three women had been tossed in the bay. They were convinced that the bodies were not put in the water from land or a bridge.

Whoever did this to Joan, Michelle and Christe Rogers did a thorough job, leaving few clues. But the concrete blocks failed to keep his secrets at the bottom of Tampa Bay. (Still, once they were found it took four days to identify the missing tourists.) Back at the Days Inn, a maid finally noticed, on Thursday, June 8, that the Rogers’ room hadn’t been used in a week. The motel’s call to police determined the murdered women’s identities; their car was discovered at the boat ramp the same day, following a tip from a couple who remembered seeing it there about 2 p.m. on June 1.

Central Florida’s most intense and, for years, most frustrating, manhunt was on.

* * *

Back at the family farm in Willshire, Ohio, until Hal Rogers heard from St. Petersburg police, he thought his wife had deserted him. He had reported her missing to the Van Wert County sheriff on Tuesday, June 6. But he and Joan were not exactly Ozzie and Harriet; she had had affairs and he had bailed his brother out of jail. As a result, Rogers himself was briefly a suspect.

A brochure later discovered in Joan’s car “Clearwater Beach Your Destination Island” had notes written by two people. One was by Joan’s hand; the other belonged to the man who took the family for a one-way ride. For the next three years, the handwriting sample and a chance palm print found on the brochure were the only concrete evidence that could link a suspect to the killings.

What happened between the Rogerses disappearance on June 1 and the discovery of three dead women in Tampa Bay three days later is still unknown. But court records of the police investigation, released under Florida’s public record laws, reveal much about the life of Oba Chandler, a man of more than a dozen aliases and whom authorities believe murdered Joan Rogers and her two daughters on June 1, 1989. (Numerous calls to Chandler’s St. Petersburg attorney, Tom McCoun, for comment went unanswered.)

Meet the Chandlers
For Oba Chandler, a 41-year-old aluminum contractor, moving in with Debra Whiteman was an improvement from sharing a mobile home with his mother. At least he told Debra he was living with his mother. His daughter Kristal knew the truth: while dating Debra, Oba was living with and engaged to another woman, Barbara Leiby. Oba always felt compelled to tell Kristal the truth about everything. In this case, he told Kristal he started seeing Debra because she was younger and prettier than Barbara. He especially liked the way Debra learned not to pry into his background or ask about the things he did when she wasn’t around. If he didn’t want to talk about himself, she wouldn’t ask a second time. If he stayed out too late or disappeared for a while, she wasn’t the kind to hassle him.

Debra, twice married herself, knew Oba had been married once before and that he had children from relationships with several women. He told her about spending time in prison for dealing drugs. She even met his probation officer. But Oba convinced Debra that all that was behind him.
They were married May 14, 1988. At least two of Oba’s children attended the ceremony, memorable for the near-brawl that took place when Jeff Chandler made a pass at his married half-sister, Kristal.

Debra became pregnant almost immediately and their daughter, Whitney, was born February 6, 1989. It was Oba’s seventh child, although Debra didn’t know it at the time.

While Debra was pregnant, Oba started his own aluminum business in Tampa, Custom Screens. Things went reasonably well and he took his new bride to look at a blue-and-white, 21′ Bayliner boat he wanted to purchase. But Debra was more interested in the boat owner’s house, which had a pool and dock and was also for sale. They purchased both the house and boat at 10790 Dalton Avenue in Tampa, using $10,000 of Debra’s $40,000 divorce settlement from her first husband as the downpayment.

Life with Oba would never be as good as it was at that moment. The Chandlers were newlyweds, about to becoming parents and they were in business for themselves.

Debra asked her husband little about his background and none of his immediate family offered information. He was born and raised in Cincinnati. He attended public schools, failed fourth-grade due to truancy and didn’t get any further than the eighth-grade at Cutter Junior High. When he left school, his IQ. was 91 but school authorities reported “he functions at the dull normal level.” Chandler was in juvenile court 18 times before reaching maturity. His mother blamed Oba’s problems on his father’s suicide. Oba was 10 when it happened.

Before his 20th birthday, Chandler took up with Martha Lou Glass. She became pregnant twice out of wedlock, in the mid-1960s, producing two daughters, Kristal Sue and Valerie Lynn. While maintaining a relationship with Martha Lou, Chandler had a son, Jeffrey Scott, by another woman. (Jeff was raised by his paternal grandmother.) In 1969 he married a Cincinnati Playboy Club bunny, Jennifer Jones, and deserted Martha and his daughters. In the early 1970s he married again, moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and had a son named Skipper. The parentage of two other children, Toby and Steven, is unclear from court records. He may also be the father of at least one more child.

Chandler did take a break from the family scene from Christmas Day, 1965, to January 11, 1967, for a stint in the U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Pvt. Chandler received an honorable discharge.

Debra didn’t know that Oba’s father committed suicide, only that “he was dead because he was old.” Being Debra, she accepted that. The truth is, Oba Sr. spent five years in mourning over the death of a son in a power line accident and attempted suicide several times before finally succeeding by hanging himself in the basement. He was discovered by his 12-year-old daughter, Helen. Oba’s mother, Margaret, did not attend her husband’s burial because of threats she received from Oba Sr.’s family; they believed she killed him. At the burial on June 1, 1957 Oba, 10, jumped into the open grave and stomped up and down on his father’s casket.

Oba Sr. wasn’t the first in his family to commit suicide. Margaret recalls that Oba Sr.’s brother, Carter, and sister, Addie, both shot themselves.

Among the other things Debra didn’t know was that her husband had been arrested in Cincinnati in 1971 for disorderly conduct when he was caught looking in apartment windows and masturbating. She also didn’t know that her new husband had been in prison not once but three times.

The longer they were married, the more convinced Debra became that her husband had not ended his criminal behavior. He routinely had large sums of money, which she assumed came from drug sales or some other illegal activity. But rather than question her secretive spouse, she just accepted his way of life.

Familiar Details
New developments on the Rogers murders were slow in coming until detectives got a lucky break.

Two Canadian women on holiday in Madeira Beach, Florida, met a pot-bellied, deeply tanned man on May 14, 1989. He said his name was Dave Posno and he offered to take them for a boat ride the next day, a common occurrence along the beaches. A morning trip passed without incident, although only one of the women, a 24-year-old, blonde social worker, chose to go, leaving Posno moody and sullen. Returning to dock, he offered a sunset cruise, urging her to bring her girlfriend and camera along. But again the friend declined to go. It was a decision that probably saved both their lives.

The man drove his boat several miles offshore into the Gulf of Mexico, took pictures of his guest and she of him and enjoyed the picnic lunch she packed for them. Immediately, the mood changed. He desperately pushed himself on her, hugging and feeling her body. When she tried to talk him out of it, he pointed to a roll of grey duct tape and threatened to tape her mouth shut. “Is sex worth losing your life over?” he asked.

When she protested that she was a virgin, he got very excited. Frightened, she consented to oral and vaginal sex. Afterwards as she huddled alone in a corner, scared, crying, he pulled the film from her camera and tossed it overboard. He also tried to wipe his fingerprints off the camera. He behaved like a caged animal, pacing the boat, gesticulating and speaking wildly. He also threw up several times over the side of the boat.

The assailant returned the victim to John’s Pass on Madeira Beach, where he had picked her up hours earlier, and sped off. The victim, in shock, didn’t immediately report the rape.

When she did call police the next day, it was too late for forensics experts to collect any physical evidence. But the victim did provide a clear description of her attacker. He was 37 to 40 years old, 5’9″ or 5’10”, 200 lbs. and stocky, with a pot belly. He had short, reddish blond hair, a light mustache, pock-marked face and a dark, leathery complexion. He wore a mint green, short-sleeve shirt with mesh on the bottom half. He smoked Marlboros. His vehicle was a dark blue, newer model, 4-door Isuzu Trooper with tinted windows; his boat, which she thought was close to 20 feet, had a blue canopy top and exterior, white interior and the word “Volvo” painted in yellow on the engine compartment. She also recalled the man cutting gray duct tape and having an assortment of ropes in with the life preservers.

She also wondered if her assailant let her live only because her girlfriend could identify him. Perhaps he thought the rape would not be reported at all, or that he could plead the sex was consensual. And she wondered whether he would have raped and killed both of them if her girlfriend had gone along.

Madeira Beach police thought there were too many similarities between the rape and the Rogers murders. The St. Petersburg police, overwhelmed by hundreds of useless leads, did not immediately act on this one. But when they did, they were intrigued to learn there was no boat registration in Florida for a David Posno (or any other similar name). They also came up empty in a check of Isuzu dealers. No one had a record of a Dave Posno. And there was no Florida record of Posno as a nurse, the profession he claimed to have.

The less information the police developed on Dave Posno, the more credibility he gained as a suspect. Whoever he was.

Debra Starts to Worry
Debra Chandler noticed a change come over her husband in the fall of 1989. His temper was on a short fuse and he yelled often. Oba wouldn’t sleep in the same bed with Debra and they didn’t have sex for months. In one argument, Debra threatened to take Whitney and leave her husband for good. Oba made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. He blocked her path and pushed Debra into a door, bruising her arm on the jam.

And in early November, a police composite sketch of the alleged assailant in the Madeira Beach rape began appearing almost daily in the Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times and four local evening TV news programs. Oba vanished.

Debra was not entirely surprised; she later said she recognized immediately that the composite “looked exactly like Oba.”

After weeks worrying about her husband and whether he had killed the Rogers women and raped the Madeira Beach woman, Debra was visited by Oba’s son Jeff and his wife. By coincidence, one of Oba’s daughters, Kristal, called from Ohio. Kristal who for weeks had denied knowing the whereabouts of her father told Debra about Oba’s rape and murder confessions. But Debra acted as if she didn’t know what Kristal was talking about.

Then Kristal told Debra to go to a pay phone and call her back. She called Kristal from the pay phone and gave her the number. Kristal told her to go to a different phone. Minutes later, the second pay phone rang and Jeff answered. “It’s Dad,” he said, handing the phone to Debra.
This was not the call Debra wanted. Oba sounded paranoid. He had money problems, he wanted out of their marriage. And he wanted to know if she had talked to the police about him. No, Debra said, over and over. And I want you to come home to the baby and me.

There was at least one more call between Kristal and Oba’s current wife, this one placed by Debra. She said there had been no murders in Florida, the house wasn’t bugged and she thought Oba was having a nervous breakdown.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Oba called again and asked Debra if he could come home. He did and that very night, Debra confronted him about the Madeira Beach rape. He denied any knowledge of it.

Lula Harris worked as a babysitter and receptionist in her brother Oba’s business in 1989 and 1990. Debra didn’t like her much; if there were a dispute between Oba and Debra, Lula would egg them on into a fight. One morning she walked into the Chandler home on Dalton Avenue and found Debra looking troubled as she read through newspaper clippings her husband had saved. The subject of the clips: the murder of Joan Rogers and her two daughters.

“Lula,” Debra said, “I think Obie did it.”

“Debra . . . ” Lula started to say. But then Oba walked in. Lula turned to her brother and asked him, point blank, “Junior, did you kill them women?”

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[amazon_link id=”0312957866″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]No, he said. That was good enough for Lula. “Okay,” she said, putting an end to the conversation and leaving the room. And Debra convinced herself that the alleged assailant’s height (5’10”; Oba was 6′) and vehicle description (he drove a Jeep Cherokee, not an Isuzu Trooper) didn’t actually match her husband.

Life in the Chandler house gradually resumed its usual pattern for the next six months.

Road Trips
Oba abruptly closed his business in 1990, Debra quit her job and they announced they were moving to California. They left behind most of their belongings in Tampa, abandoning their mortgage as well. It was the last contact much of Chandler’s family would have with him for almost two years.

Their travels took the Chandlers on an erratic journey across the country, although they wound up back in Florida once again, this time near Fort Lauderdale. So many thousands of miles took their toll on Oba’s Jeep. The clutch went out and then it was repossessed. Oba replaced it with an older brown pickup truck.

Oba began a new career as a snitch for U.S. Customs and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). He was always on the phone, setting up drug deals, sometimes entrapping family or friends to make a buck. Loyalty was an alien concept to Chandler.

The Chandlers changed phone numbers almost as often as they changed socks. And because Debra and Oba’s credit was so bad, the phone and other utilities were in two-year-old Whitney’s name.

Oba made new friends when the couple moved to Port Orange, near Daytona Beach, including a 14-year-old girl who lived in their neighborhood. She went fishing at a pier with Oba every day and began spending time at the Chandler house on a daily basis until Debra told her to quit coming around. Amazingly enough, the teen’s mother was mad at Debra for chasing her away from Oba.

The specter of the Rogers triple murder and the questions of Oba’s possible involvement was not completely left behind in Tampa. One night, Debra saw a re-enactment of the crime on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries.

Baubles and Baby
Money woes drove Oba once more to armed robbery on September 11, 1992. The rent was months behind and he had already pawned Debra’s earrings for grocery money.

Chandler drove Debra and Whitney from Port Orange to Clearwater. A few days earlier they had done surveillance on two traveling jewelry re-mounters at a shopping mall. Debra and Whitney had even posed as customers to get a better look at their pigeons. Oba already knew where they were staying. He showed his wife two motels, the first, a Days Inn where he would meet her after the robbery, the second, a Residence Inn where she dropped him at 9:30 p.m. to commit the crime.

Debra waited for her husband at the back of the Residence Inn. The plan was for him to drive past her and then for Debra to follow him to the prearranged meeting point at the Days Inn. It didn’t take long. No sooner did Debra open a book and begin reading to Whitney than she heard tires squealing and Oba driving past her in a large vehicle. She followed him on a back street to the Days Inn, whereupon Oba hurriedly began transferring jewelry cases from one trunk to the other. As he climbed into Debra’s Toyota, both she and Whitney saw him put a chrome handgun under the front passenger seat.

“Why do you have a gun, Daddy?” Whitney asked.

Oba didn’t answer. And Debra knew better to ask any questions either.

When they returned to Port Orange, Oba put the jewelry cases in a spare bedroom and locked the door. Later, he gave his wife several gold rings from the heist. Using a jeweler’s blowtorch he found in one of the cases, Chandler melted much of the gold into a blob and sold it for several thousands of dollars in Orlando.

Captured!
Oba Chandler was arrested on September 24.

A Tampa Bay area billboard campaign reproducing the man’s handwriting from a tourism brochure found in Joan Rogers’ car did what no eyewitness could: it created a link between the disappearance of the three Ohio women and a career criminal.

Lead No. 1,507 came on March 25, 1992, from a woman who told police that her sister in Tampa lived two houses over from a man whose boat and truck matched the description of those being sought in the Rogers’ murder investigation. The same neighbor told police that she recognized Oba Chandler as the man in a police composite sketch. The coincidence now alarmed her that he moved away soon after the victims were found. She also provided police with an example of Chandler’s handwriting, a contract for work Chandler did.

On the last day in July, a second woman called police to say she also recognized the handwriting on the billboards. It matched the scrawl on a contract estimate for a screen enclosure her mother received before hiring a man named Oba Chandler.

Police investigating the Rogers murders obtained a photograph of Chandler and found it bore a remarkable resemblance to the police composite drawing of the Madeira Beach rapist. Chandler’s height, weight and hair matched the rape victim’s description. And, at the time of the crime, he did own a dark blue 1985 Jeep Cherokee, which the victim described as an Isuzu Trooper, and a blue, 21-foot Bayliner boat with a broken steering wheel and a Volvo motor.

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A decision was made to upgrade Chandler from spot checks to round-the-clock surveillance; to do a “pen register” of his telephone (recording what calls are placed and to whom); and to track down the current locations of his former boat and 1985 Jeep Cherokee.

A background check on Chandler brought a wide range of offenses covering two states, Florida and Ohio. They included 18 juvenile arrests in Ohio plus armed robbery (besides material goods, he once stole a man’s dog), counterfeiting and escaping from prison as an adult. He lied on his marriage license, indicating it was his first marriage. Debra was at least his third wife.

On September 7, the police received the results of a check of fingerprint evidence. While Chandler’s fingerprints did not match the prints on the Clearwater brochure found in Joan Rogers’ car, they did get a positive match on his palm print.

On September 10, in a Hamilton, Ontario, Holiday Inn, he was positively identified from a package of six photos by the Canadian social worker he allegedly raped in 1989. (Her girlfriend also identified Chandler.) Chandler’s face was on the third picture the victim saw and she put it on the top of the deck. The victim signed and dated the photograph.

“Do you mind if I turn his photograph over?” she asked. “It’s really bothering me.”

A decision was made to arrest Chandler on either September 17 or 18, but he surprised the task force by leaving the state suddenly on the 17th. Maybe something spooked him, maybe he planned to travel all along. He drove to Cincinnati, where his luck began to run out.

Chandler fenced a portion of the jewelry stolen in Pinellas Park for $9,500. The man he sold it to, a used car salesman, immediately tried to re-sell it for $15,000 to a retail jeweler. But the jeweler, who valued the 214 items at $35,000, became suspicious and the man wound up in jail.

Evading capture in Ohio by sheer luck, Chandler’s survival instincts nonetheless failed him and he was arrested immediately upon his return, September 24, at an Interstate 95 gas station near his home in Volusia County. He offered no resistance.

Chandler was informed only that he was being charged with sexual battery and that his bond would be $1 million. The extremely high bond must have tipped him off that more than a rape charge was involved, but neither he or the police raised the Rogers triple homicide. Found on Chandler was a variety of jewelry from the Pinellas Park robbery, including a diamond stashed in his wallet. He also had a discount coupon for an upcoming gem & jewelry show.

Tim and Maria Pearson remember the night Chandler was arrested. The 11 o’clock news was on, although they weren’t paying much attention until they heard the name of their friend and former next-door-neighbor.

“Both of our eyes went wide open,” Maria recalls. “Oba Chandler! It was a name you couldn’t forget. We would never have suspected someone like Oba we called him Obie. Of all the neighbors in the area, he was the one we’d least suspect.”

“Obie” was the man who could fix anything. When the Pearsons tried to replace their front walk and ran into a problem, Obie got it done properly. When the pool pump broke down while Tim was at work, Obie fixed it for Maria. When the Pearsons seawall needed to be rebuilt, Obie allowed the general contractor to do prep work in his driveway.

The Pearsons remember the Chandlers as friends who invited them over to see their new baby and later their new boat. “We were glad to see that kind of neighbor move in,” Maria says. “There were times we’d go out of town and we’d have somebody housesit. We’d say, ‘If you have a problem, go see Oba.’ He was the kind of person who would help you out.”

“He didn’t take his boat out late at night, he didn’t keep strange hours,” Tim says. “He was very outgoing, gregarious.”

Not long before the Chandlers left, Tim heard power tools making lots of noise on Obie’s boat. Obie said that he and his son were fixing up the interior to sell it. The activity continued for several weeks. Chandler even tried to sell the boat to the Pearsons. “Oh, c’mon, Tim!” he said. “I’ll make you a great deal on it!”

“One day they were there, the next day they were completely gone,” Tim says. “(Chandler) said his aunt or cousin had an extra house and they were going to live with them. We didn’t know they were going to default on the house; we didn’t know they were in financial trouble.”

Ten days after his arrest, Chandler was also charged with armed robbery, stemming from the September 11, 1992 robbery of $700,000 worth of jewelry from a man in Pinellas Park, Florida. (He pleaded no contest to the robbery charges in late July and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.)

On November 10, 1992, Oba Chandler was indicted on three counts of first degree murder in the deaths of Joan, Michelle and Christe Rogers.

* * *

Unaware that her father had been arrested, Kristal casually called her Aunt Lula.

“Did you know they’ve arrested your dad?” Lula asked.

“No,” Kristal answered, her worst fears confirmed. “For what?” Despite what she heard from her father three years earlier, Kristal became terribly upset. Lula gave her niece the phone number of the investigating detective.

Kristal finally decided to call the St. Petersburg police and tell them what she knew. It was a horrible secret to have kept she wasn’t sure why she even did and it felt good to finally tell someone.

Meanwhile, the Canadian rape victim and her girlfriend flew to St. Petersburg where they positively identified Oba Chandler in a lineup as the victim’s assailant.

* * *

The reaction of Chandler’s immediate family to his arrest was remarkable. His sister, Lula, called him a liar. His uncle, William Johnson, said he was always up to no good. His son, Jeff, said Oba was a swindler and a con artist but not a murderer. And his daughter, Kristal, to him he told his deepest secrets, said Oba treats women like garbage, has no morals and needs help.

The worst part? Kristal Sue Mays knows that when her father comes to trial in November, he will feel no pain, no remorse. And learning that the women closest to him Kristal, Debra and Lula contributed to his prosecution will probably just make him meaner. If that’s possible.




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