The Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD), with some assistance from various agencies throughout Florida, has found the suspect dubbed in the media as the “Daytona Beach Serial Killer”.
37-year-old Robert Hayes was arrested yesterday (September 15th) by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) for a separate murder in their jurisdiction (Rachel Bey). Hayes remains in their custody at the moment.
Thanks to a joint investigation between PBSO and DBPD which started soon after Bey’s murder, DNA evidence has tied Hayes to two of the murder victims from nearly 15 years ago: Laquetta Gunther and Julie Green. Forensic evidence has also linked Hayes to the murder of Iwana Patton.
Investigators are also looking into the possibility of Hayes being the suspect in the January 2, 2008 murder of Stacey Gage, but there is no physical evidence linking him to that crime at this time.
No charges have been filed at this time on Hayes for those murders but will be done soon in conjunction with Florida 7th Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza.
During the press conference this morning, DBPD Chief Craig Capri gave credit to Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood – who was DBPD Chief at the time of the murders – for pushing the department during his tenure to embrace the technology needed to solve this kind of case.
“Before that, we didn’t really know much about technology or embrace technology,” Capri added. “Without that type of forward thinking, we might not be here today.”
“For the ten-and-a-half years as the police chief, I think the only think I left unfilled was to [solve these cases],” Chitwood noted. “I just can’t tell you how proud I am of Chief Capri and how proud I am of the men and women of the Daytona Beach Police Department.”
Detectives believe the victims were shot in the head with a .40-caliber gun. All three were discovered naked and face down on the ground, with their clothes either under them or found nearby.
“These were brutal crimes and the State Attorney’s Office is very fortunate to have the caliber of law enforcement folks that we have working these cases,” Larizza stated. “It’s not just working the streets anymore. It’s working with DNA. It’s working with technology. We are truly in a brave new world.”
Larizza noted during the press conference that no decision made at this time on pursuing the death penalty for Hayes.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen calls this case an important one for his agency, especially with the genetic technology utilized to solve it.
“I want to thank the Daytona Beach Police Department, FDLE investigators, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office (7th and 15th judicial circuits) for their dedication to this case,” Swearingen added. “Because of your efforts, Florida is safer today.”
For copies of the incident reports in the murders of Laquetta Gunther, Julie Green, Iwana Patton and Stacey Gage, please contact the Public Information Officer (PIO).