ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just the other day, retired St. Petersburg homicide detective Cindy Leedy was driving across Tampa Bay when she thought of the Rogers family -- the mother and two teenage daughters whose bodies surfaced 22 years ago, in the waters south of the bridge Leedy was crossing.
To Leedy, it wasn't the bloodiest case she's worked on in her 15 years as a homicide detective -- she's worked a couple of decapitation cases, for instance. But, she said today, it was one of the saddest.
Joan Rogers, 36, and her two daughters -- Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14 -- were visiting from Ohio. They checked into the Days Inn on the Courtney Campbell Parkway on June 1, 1989 -- the same road Leedy was recently driving on -- and their decomposed bodies turned up three days later on the St. Petersburg side of the bay.
Their mouths were covered with duct tape. Their hands were bound with rope. Concrete blocks were tied to their necks. They were naked from the waist down, but investigators couldn't determine whether they had been raped.
Joan Rogers appears to have stopped and asked Oba Chandler, a Tampa aluminum contractor, for directions. The directions he wrote down helped convict him. Prosecutors believe he sweet-talked them into a sunset cruise on his boat.
Leedy said she often thinks of "the fear and terror the victims felt before they died, knowing they were going to be next.
"I'm sure they were alive when they were thrown overboard," said Leedy, who retired in 2004 and now works as a bailiff at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center.
Her voice trails off. "I just can't imagine," she said.
Now, after years of unsuccessfully appealing his death sentence, Chandler, now 65, is expected to die for his crime on Nov. 15. Gov. Rick Scott signed the death warrant Monday.
To Leedy, it is a bittersweet development. There is relief, yes, that Chandler will finally be executed. But there is also a kind of disappointment.
"I really am sorry he's not gonna suffer," she said. "He hasn't suffered in the whole 22 years nearly as much as they've suffered."
What also rankles is that Chandler hasn't admitted to the triple slaying, said Leedy, who was picked to interrogate him following his arrest in the belief he would open up to a woman. Chandler didn't, immediately demanding a lawyer.
Retired Sgt. Glen Moore -- Leedy's former boss who shepherded the Chandler investigation, a probe that once involved 50 investigators -- now lives in South Carolina, where he does some ministry work and some private investigation.
Like Leedy, he hasn't forgotten.
"Anytime you work something this hard, as hard as I did, and as hard as the department did, you don't get it out of your mind as soon as you leave or retire," Moore said. "It was such a horrific crime."
"It's a long time coming," Moore said of the imminent execution. "He's gonna get what he deserves."
"There are a lot of horrible ones," he said. "We saw a lot of horrible things. This is by far the worst."
"This particular guy Oba Chandler had the potential to go on and do many more things in the future," Moore said. "That was the motivating factor in us finding him. For all the investigators who knew this case inside or out, we didn't believe this would be the last time he would do something like this."
Much like Leedy, Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett thinks Chandler dumped the bodies at three different locations, raising the possibility that either mother watched daughter, or daughter watched mother, get dumped overboard.
The death penalty was designed for the likes of Oba Chandler, Bartlett said.
Neither Moore nor Leedy has been in touch with Hal Rogers, Joan's then-husband and father of Michelle and Christe.
"I have not kept in touch with Hal Rogers," Leedy said. "If he can have a day without thinking of the tragedy, I wouldn't want to call him and bring it all back. I doubt if ever a day went by without its being on his mind."
"The whole family was just about wiped out."
Copyright 2011 - Tampa Tribune, Fla.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service