TALLAHASSEE -- A man convicted of murdering an Ohio mother and her two daughters after their Disney World vacation 22 years ago is scheduled to be executed Nov. 15 after Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant Monday.
Oba Chandler, who turns 65 on Tuesday, was convicted of murdering Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters, Christe, 14, and Michelle, 17. He stripped them from the waist down, bound them with duct tape and yellow rope and tied concrete blocks to ropes around their necks before throwing them overboard into Tampa Bay, according to authorities. But the bodies, despite being weighted, floated to the surface.
Prosecutors weren’t certain whether Rogers and her daughters were alive or dead when they were thrown into the bay. The cause of death was either strangulation from the ropes or drowning, authorities said.
Rogers, who had gone with her children to Tampa en route back to Willshire, Ohio, after visiting Disney World, had stopped and asked Chandler for directions to her Tampa motel on June 1, 1989. She and her daughters disappeared that night. The motel manager contacted police after maids noticed no one had been in the room for a week. Authorities then found Rogers’ car abandoned beside a boat ramp on a causeway that connects Tampa and Pinellas County.
Inside they found a brochure on which Chandler wrote directions to the motel. For three years the killings were a mystery until investigators posted Chandler’s handwriting in hopes someone would recognize it. One of Chandler’s neighbors did and called authorities.
Chandler was convicted of the killings in 1994. At trial, prosecutors used details of an unrelated rape for which he was never tried. A woman testified Chandler took her by boat to see the sunset out on the bay and raped her and she believed the reason she wasn’t killed was because a friend was waiting for her at the dock. Based on the similarities of the cases, prosecutors hypothesized that Rogers and her daughters were lured onto the boat with the promise of seeing the sunset and were then sexually assaulted before being murdered.
Chandler’s lawyer, Baya Harrison, said his client has told him to avoid frivolous appeals to keep him alive.
“He is not putting a lot of pressure on me to go running around at the end to find some magic way out,” Harrison said. “He is not going to make a scene. He’s not going to bemoan the legal system. What he has told me is this: if there is some legal way that I can find to try to prevent him from being executed, he would like me to do what I reasonably can.”
Chandler hasn’t admitted he committed the murders, but is simply tired of life on death row, Harrison said.
“This is an old man, a tired man, a broken man,” Harrison said. “I’m afraid that there’s simply not many issues left. I’ve got a couple of cards I can play, but I’m going to get my pleadings filed as soon as I can so we don’t have this last-minute running around like chickens with our heads cut off because that’s absolutely miserable for everybody.”
Seven months ago, Chandler was offered to be interviewed for potential clemency -- a standard procedure in death cases -- and he declined, Harrison said.
“He didn’t do it in an arrogant or obnoxious or angry way at all,” Harrison said. “”He knew he was not a serious candidate for clemency and he didn’t want to take up their time. He didn’t want to go through the exercise himself.”
Chandler, who is being held at Union Correctional Institution in Union County, also had a previous felony conviction for armed robbery.
The death warrant, under which Chandler is to receive a lethal injection, is the second signed by Scott since he took office in January. Last month Manuel Valle received a lethal injection for fatally shooting Coral Gables police officer Louis Pena in 1978. Valle’s execution was the first in Florida using a newly revised mix of lethal drugs.
Associated Press writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report.