Everybody loves a girls trip. Girls trips are dope and everybody knows it. 36-year-old Joan “Jo” Rogers and her two daughters, 17-year-old Michelle and 14-year-old Christie, sure knew it.
And so they decided, on May 26, 1989, to leave their Willshire dairy farm in their home state of Ohio for the very first time and drive down to sunny Tampa Bay. Husband and father Hal wished them well and sent them off to have the girls trip of a lifetime.
This would be a trip they’d never forget.
On June 4, 1989, two bodies were found in Tampa Bay under the Sunshine Skyway. As the Coast Guard collected the remains, a call came in about a third body located just 200 yards away. All three were female, bound, and naked from the waist down. Around each of their necks was a rope tied to a concrete block, likely to assure that the bodies were never found.
Due to bloating from decomposition, however, they were found.
It wasn’t until a week later that the three Jane Does were identified as Jo, Michelle, and Christie. Four days after they were discovered, the manager of the Days Inn on Route 60 reported to police that the Rogers’ room had been undisturbed for a time. Their fingerprints, dental records, and Hal’s missing persons report all gave police the identification they needed.
Medical examiners determined that the Rogers died either from suffocation or drowning. After investigating currents and when/where they were found, investigators believed that the girls had been thrown from a boat, rather than off a bridge, a dock, or dry land. The family car, a 1984 Oldsmobile Calais, was found at the boat dock by the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Police initially followed a credible lead involving the rape of a 24-year-old Canadian tourist roughly two weeks before the Rogers murder. After police were able to make a match between the Canadian victim’s description of her attacker’s boat with a handwritten description of a boat from Joan, they knew they had a lead.
But, despite a physical description and an unusually high volume of tips from locals, the case went cold and remained unsolved for three years.
It wouldn’t be until one detective came across a travel brochure found in the Rogers’ car. After testing it for prints, a new, previously undetected palm print is found along with handwritten directions, not in the victim’s handwriting, to the very boat dock where the Rogers’ car was found.
Police, it would appear, had a new lead. And, after a tip, a suspect: Oba Chandler.
On September 4, 1992, police arrested Chandler and charged him with the murder of Jo, Michelle, and Christie Rogers. At his trial, in response to all of the evidence against him, Chandler claimed that he had met the Rogerses once when he gave them directions, and that he was on his boat in Tampa Bay on the night of the murders, but that he was fishing alone.
His argument fell on deaf ears as a jury found Chandler guilty in less than two hours on three counts of murder. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
On November 15, 2011, Chandler was executed.
But that wouldn’t be the last time police would hear of Oba Chandler. In 2014, investigators linked Chandler’s DNA to a 1990 murder in South Florida. That, plus the rape that occurred two weeks prior to the Rogerses murder motivated police to look into any other unsolved homicides in areas Chandler has lived.
The extent of Chandler’s crimes is still unknown.