Maria Dumois still remembers kissing her husband goodbye 30 years ago today.
“He kissed me in the morning — the boys did, too. We kissed whenever we were going somewhere,” recalls Dumois, now 73, sitting in her living room in St. Petersburg.
Hours later, Dumois’ husband and their two youngest children were dying at Blake Medical Center. All three had been shot in the head.
They were gunned down inside their own car along the causeway, in one of Manatee County’s most notorious cold cases. A witness who chased after their killer was shot and killed. A man driving by with a new camera saw someone emerge from the station wagon, and he snapped the killer walking away from the scene, frame for frame.
The settings on the camera were wrong.
No one — despite the blurred images of the killer, more than 100 suspects questioned, rumors of links to the Mafia investigated — has ever been arrested in the murders. The weapon, a 22-caliber handgun, was never found.
Now, for the first time, investigators have opened most of the murder file in hopes that the information will lead to some new clue. It might be their last chance.
Any hope of solving the case becomes less and less likely with each passing year, says Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine. He first took on the case in 1988 as a Holmes Beach detective.
“Every time we do a story on this and I say, ‘Somebody out there knows what happened. Somebody knows who did it and why they did it,’ But with every five years that rolls around with this thing, that statement has less and less truth to it,” Romine said. “People are dying. Thirty years has gone by and eventually anybody who had anything to do with it or any knowledge of it will be gone.”
Meeting their killer
Maria Dumois and her family were renting a beach house on Anna Maria Island — she and Dr. Juan Dumois with their four children, and they planned to stay two weeks. Her 46-year-old husband, a pediatrician, was on vacation from his private practice in Tampa.
On Aug. 1, 1980, Dr. Dumois took their two youngest — 13-year-old Eric and 9-year-old Mark — fishing with his brother-in-law, Raymond Barrows. Just the day before, the boys were photographed clutching their fishing poles, tanned and smiling.
They launched their boat from the Kingfish Boat Ramp at about 9 a.m. and made a day of it, returning just before 5 p.m., triumphant with a couple dozen fish spread before them.
They all climbed back into the family station wagon, a 1977 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, pulling the boat behind them as they started to head back to the beach house.
Their killer emerged from behind the trees at the boat landing.
He was pushing his 10-speed bicycle, claiming he had a lame ankle.
He appeared to be in his early 30s, about 6 feet tall with a lean muscular build. His wavy thick brown hair was pulled straight back. His bushy eyebrows turned up slightly at the ends above large, piercing blue eyes. Deep lines creased his forehead and a cleft marked his chin. He brought the bicycle up to the station wagon as they stopped.
“So I hear him say something, I couldn’t quite make it out what he wanted. So I told Juan this guy must want something, ‘You want to see what he wants?’ Juan says, ‘Sure.’ So he stopped,” Barrows said, sitting in a hospital bed at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, talking to detectives four days after the shooting.
Barrows was the only survivor.
“I need, I need help. I’m hurt and I need, I need to get to those condominiums over there,” Barrows recalled the killer saying in a New England accent as he pointed toward Holmes Beach.
“Whereabouts? What is the address?” the doctor asked. “Don’t you know the address?”
“No. I don’t know. Just around the corner,” the killer replied. “The reason I’m asking is because I have a bad ankle which I hurt riding this bicycle.”
The doctor helped the killer lift his bicycle into the boat.
“You think it’s going to hurt something inside the boat?” the killer asked the doctor.
“No. No, it’s not going to hurt anything. It’s fine. Not anything it can hurt,” the doctor replied before getting back into the driver’s seat.
Barrows helped the hitchhiker climb into the back seat on the passenger side.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh, he’s hurt. Let me be a gentleman and open the door for him. He’s got a bad ankle,’ ” Barrows told investigators in recorded interviews. “So I open the door for him, he got in, closed the door.”
The boys scooted over to make room for the stranger. Barrows got back into the front passenger seat next to the doctor.
The killer said nothing more.
The moments that followed unfolded in silence until shots began to ring out, Barrows told investigators.
The first shot most likely struck Barrows.
“So when the car started pulling to the highway I heard this bang. I say, ‘Wow.’ I think to myself, somebody must have hit us from behind, you know a car or truck hit the boat, smashing into the car,” Barrows told investigators.
“I slump into the seat. I felt something — I can’t describe it. I guess it must have been from the impact of the bullet. So I slump and I try to get up and I couldn’t. I tried to move around, and I couldn’t do nothing. … Sort of semiconscious and just lying there.”
The killer shot again. Eric was shot in the head. Mark was shot in the head. Their blood covered the back seat.
In horror, their father turned around in his seat and tried in vain to go after the killer.
The doctor was probably shot last.
“I looked in and the driver was turned around with his back towards the windshield and he was fighting,” said a witness who had been driving east on Manatee Avenue with his wife and son. “To me it looked like a couple of guys giving it a little fist fight, you know …. Fighting like that.
“They swerved back over and they come right aside of my car just like you know you are supposed to but were still fighting. By then I was watching and I heard two bangs... and it was muffled ’cause the car was closed up. ...
“My wife says, ‘That’s backfire.’ And I says, ‘No, it’s uh, that’s somebody shooting. ... They’re shooting in that damn car. You know it happened real fast.”
The doctor was shot twice in the head as he faced the killer.
Barrows continued to drift in and out of consciousness.
“Then, only seconds afterwards I hear my brother-in-law. He’s yelling. So I couldn’t turn, I just couldn’t even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn, just semi-conscious. So I look out the corner of my eye and I can see … His back is red. … It looks like blood. Right away, I think of bullets or car accident and I say, ‘What is this?’ and then that’s it. I must have blacked out.”
Witnesses said it appeared the killer reached to grab the wheel and steered the station wagon off the road, coming to a stop in a grassy area just west of the boat ramp.
Dr. Dumois died shortly after the shooting. The boys died hours later.
Barrows survived, a bullet lodged in his neck. He died two years later from a heart attack. His widow, Dora — Juan Dumois’ sister — passed away this spring.
The killer wasn’t done.
He got out of the Dumois’ station wagon right as it came to a stop. He lifted the bike out of the boat and began to pedal to the parking lot of Foodway near the intersection of Gulf Drive and Manatee Avenue.
That caught the attention of U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Robert Matzke, who was in his Westbay Cove condominium. He told his wife, Mary, to call police to report a car crash. According to police logs, Mary Matzke reported the crash at 4:58 p.m.
Matzke, 60, jumped into his 1978 Fiat convertible and followed the killer, apparently not knowing there had been a shooting. He confronted the killer in the parking lot and then started to drive away.
He didn’t get very far.
The killer fired another round from the .22 caliber handgun toward the small car.
“I saw two men in an argument,” one woman told police. “As the small car pulled away, the young man shot him. I thought he had missed him and that the older man had just ducked out of the way. The young man jumped into a car and left going toward Manatee Avenue towards town.”
Matzke had been shot in the back of the head; his car drifted into another parked vehicle in the parking lot.
A woman called police from Foodway, reporting the crash at 5:02 p.m.
The killer loaded his bike into the trunk of a Ford LTD with a tan body, dark top, a Florida license plate and a unidentified driver.
The men vanished.
The brash retired lieutenant colonel would have chased the killer all over again, says son Scott Matzke, of Ellenton. Scott is now 60 — the same age his father was when he was killed.
“He was just the kind of person who would do something like that,” Scott Matzke told the Herald. “He saw something happen. And then he saw something strange happen as a result.”
Robert Matzke, who oversaw maintenance and transportation for the Manatee County School District, later had a maintenance facility named in his honor. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed, and the district plans to rededicate them in his honor.
His widow, Mary, turned 89 this spring and is in poor health with heart problems, relatives say.
Chaos on the island
At first, police officers thought they were responding to minor unrelated traffic crashes.
Within minutes, however, they found three men and two boys with gunshot wounds. And an island volunteer squad of paramedics, onlookers and reporters rushed in, inadvertently contaminating murder scenes that had not been secured.
“What you had was bedlam. You had mass confusion,” Romine said. “You’ve got this accident called in. Officer responds to the scene. It’s several minutes before you realize the gravity of the situation. Gunshot wounds.
“At the same time now, you’re getting a call of another accident at Foodway,” he said. “And then, boom, you’ve got a shooting involved there, too. Can you imagine what bedlam that was? It was just, unfortunately, everything worked in that guy’s favor that day.”
Witnesses who initially called Holmes Beach Police Department reported a car crash not realizing a shooting had taken place.
Theodore Staley, of Bradenton Beach, the witness who had seen the shooting while driving by with his wife and son, made it across the bridge and turned around. By the time he got there, the first officer was already on scene.
“The police officer had pulled one of the boys out of the car and then I went up there; my wife went first,” he said in an interview with police. “Then she came back and then when I went up there, I had you know everything was — they were all pulling them out and all that.”
A semi-conscious Barrows was pulled out.
“Then the next thing I knew, they were pulling me out onto the ground, put me on a stretcher. Then I see a lot of people, hear people talking and policemen, paramedics, passersby, a lot of people and they are helping Juan, pulling him on a stretcher,” Barrows recalled in interviews with investigators. “Then I saw Eric, the oldest boy also on a stretcher, and I think I could see the foot of Mark, the little one. ... I thought, ‘God, why are they waiting so long to move us, why don’t they move us?’
“I couldn’t see that much, just what was in front of me. And then they moved me. Then I don’t remember the ride to the hospital in the ambulance, I must have passed out again.”
Responders and onlookers left fingerprints everywhere for detectives to eliminate as a suspect. No match was ever found for approximately 77 of those fingerprints.
“You basically have an all-volunteer island rescue squad,” Romine said. “So between them, between the witnesses, the bystanders, everybody’s doing what they feel they should do. They’re trying to help. They want to get in there and help whoever is in the car, not knowing at all that it’s a crime scene and they are contaminating it. You’ve got dozens of people. Hands on everything.
“The first thing you do other than save lives if you can is protect the scene,” the police chief said. “It wasn’t until all that damage was done — that’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. It’s just a situation that happened because of circumstance.”
The family station wagon and boat had ended up near a sprinkler system. The vehicle became covered in water and mud, making it difficult to lift prints.
Investigators took down tag numbers of every ve hicle parked there and tried to ensure everyone’s names were recorded.
Detectives followed up with witnesses asking for every detail. One woman who saw Matzke’s shooting found an attorney and refused to speak out of fear. Some probably never came forward.
“You think, ‘Man, if one of those people had done just a little bit more,’ ” Romine said. “But then, on the other hand, you think if they had you would have more victims.”
The bicycle and the getaway car were never found. Manatee County sheriff’s divers futilely searched the water for the handgun.
“You sit here 30 years later and it remains unsolved,” Romine said. “But you know and it’s frustrating because you know that you were that close to getting that guy.”
The search continues
Letters and fliers littered every nearby beach cottage and hotel for several years, in hopes of locating someone who would have the needed piece of information to find the killer.
Detectives looked at every homicide suspect they came across as a possible suspect for years.
One suspect actually confessed to another homicide. Richard Lee Whitley, who was 34 at the time, had an alibi in the Dumois shootings. But as detectives grilled him, he confessed to killing a 63-year-old woman in Fairfax County, Va.
Authorities searched homeless shelters and soup kitchens. They checked for rental cars matching the Ford’s description and checked hotels for the killer.
“We tried every possible angle to turn up a witness,” said Bruce Benjamin, a detective on the case who is now retired from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “You had to cover everything.”
Benjamin arrived on the scene after the victims had been taken to the hospital. He tried to get a description from witnesses of the killer.
“He wasn’t in the car very long,” Benjamin said.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives, Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents and FBI agents tried to crack the case.
Less than two months after the killings, Holmes Beach Police Chief Tom Shanafelt wrote a psychic for help.
“We are not making a great deal of progress. At the present time we have not discovered a motive in spite of our intensive background investigation of the victims,” he wrote. “We do not have a great deal of physical evidence and we have no suspect. Frankly, we are rapidly approaching a dead end.”
In several readings in the evidence file, a psychic described the killer as psychotic, playing many different roles and possibly being a transvestite. A man named Moses was supposed to lead detectives to the killer. She lists different names citing possible significance. She said he kills for pleasure and money. She said the gun was in a manhole near a Ramada Inn.
Nothing panned out.
Shanafelt is in poor health now, Romine said, and other investigators from the scene have died.
“It’s just unfortunate. You hate to call anything the perfect crime, but really, so far, that’s what this has become. And it’s going to remain that way unless it gets solved,” Romine said. “Never to be seen 30 years later is just bizarre to me. I don’t think it could have fallen into place any better than it did for him.”
Ties to Castro, Mafia
Investigators pored over the backgrounds of Juan Dumois and Raymond Barrows.
Dumois, the first pediatrician at Tampa General, was from Cuba. His family had political ties. His cousin was the minister of agriculture for Cuba.
In the late 1950s, Dumois was a medical student at the University of Havana. In 1958, he was part of an anti-Fulgencio Batista movement that made an attempt on the president’s life at his palace, Barrows told investigators. Dumois later abandoned the group, according to his brother-in-law.
The University of Havana was shut down because of political unrest. Dumois was allowed to leave Cuba for Miami, where he took courses at the University of Miami and met Maria. They dated, married and returned to Cuba.
Fidel Castro was coming to power. Dumois initially supported him before turning against him a few months later, Barrows told investigators.
Maria was seven months pregnant with their first child. They decided they had to flee to America.
“We saw how things were getting over there with Castro,” Maria recalled in an interview with the Herald. “It was leaning toward Communism. We decided we really couldn’t stay. We started trying to see how we could get out. They weren’t letting out any Cuban professionals. It was easy for me because I was an American citizen.” Her family had settled in the United States in 1947.
Dumois had a harder time leaving Cuba, but managed to escape in 1960.
“They were looking for him, always looking for him, but he was gone, never to return,” Barrows said.
The killings in 1980 took place in the midst of the Mariel Boatlift, in which a mass exodus of Cubans came to America from the Cuban Mariel Harbor. Investigators received information from the U.S. Coast Guard that Dumois helped pay for a boat to bring Cubans to America — a boat that apparently was never functional.
None of Dumois’ ties to Cuba were ever connected to the shootings.
Barrows, whose mother was Cuban, worked at a Key Biscayne hotel in Miami as a bell captain during an era when cocaine cowboys were using hotels as their base for illicit drug sales.
Investigators questioned whether Barrows had any dealings that caused a gunman to track down his family. Barrows denied any connections, and he passed a polygraph.
Rumors escalated that one of the men was linked to the Mafia, and the killer was a hired hit man.
“I know my husband. They said it was a mafia-type thing. I know he was not involved in anything like that. It was just one of those crazy random things,” Maria told the Herald. “To this day, the only thing I can think of is that it was someone who was unhinged or was on drugs. They said maybe war. Maybe it was someone who had just come back from Vietnam. I don’t know. It was just unbelievable.”
Another theory was the gunman was an outraged parent whose child died under the doctor’s care.
“All these other things — that it may have been a patient who was upset and that the child had died — all of that,” Maria said. “Those things were investigated. Nothing was found.”
Holmes Beach detectives have released a new composite sketch, progressively aging the suspect by 30 years. And the fingerprints from the evidence are still run through Florida Department of Law Enforcement databases.
But fewer and fewer people connected to the case remain.
“I recently went through the case file,” Romine said. “There was a witness at the boat ramp who gave an original statement. When I was detective I went back and interviewed him. And I thought, ‘I wonder if it would be worthwhile to go back and talk to him today just to see if anything had changed.’ Then I get on down to the bottom and realized he would or would have turned 100 in September this year.”
Maria believes the killer has died by now, maybe even after killing again.
“They probably did something similar after that. Either they were put in prison or they just died, or committed suicide. Somebody like that isn’t sane,” Maria said. “I just try to never think about whoever did this. I was afraid at first, a little nervous, but I really didn’t think there was somebody after us. I really didn’t. I think it was random.”
She still misses them
Maria Dumois actually caught one last glimpse of her family minutes before the shooting.
It was pure happenstance.
She and her 16-year-old daughter Anna Maria were in another car. Her niece, Anita — Raymond Barrows’ daughter — was driving them back from Kentucky Fried Chicken, where they had picked up dinner for the family.
They passed the boat ramp heading back to the beach house.
“We saw them coming up to the pier and we thought, ‘Oh good,’ because it was getting cloudy. ... They had the car doors open getting in. We honked at them,” a 43-year-old Dumois told detectives just a week after the shooting.
Raymond Barrows remembered seeing their car go by.
“It’s funny you know, when we got the boat off the water, to the ramp and we were securing the boat with the straps, putting the lights on. We heard a car honking, so we look and it was my daughter coming from Bradenton with ... her cousin and her aunt and we waved and they went by,” Barrows told detectives. “And that must have been two minutes before this tragedy.”
Maria was back at the beach house when police called to tell her she needed to go to Blake Medical Center.
“There was a phone call. My niece Anita picked it up. And she said, ‘That was the police.’ That there was a bad accident and to go to Blake hospital. So, I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, we went. On my way there, I saw my car on the side of the road. There was a policeman there,” Maria told the Herald.
“I stopped. I went over to him. He wouldn’t let me get close. The car didn’t look banged up. So I didn’t think the accident could have been very bad, but he didn’t say anything — just go on to the hospital. When I got there, they told me they had been shot.”
Maria Dumois and her family never returned to the beach house. Friends packed up their belongings.
“We would never go back to Anna Maria after that,” she said, sitting on a sofa with pictures of her late husband and two young sons. “After 30 years, I just think about it several times a month. There’s always something that brings up a memory.”
Surrounded by family today
Maria takes comfort in her two oldest children, Juan Dumois III, 49, and Anna, 46.
“I’m grateful for the two good children I have. It’s really what kept me going,” she said. “And then, they had children. Now, I have four grandsons I dote on and spoil. They give me a lot of joy.”
Juan Dumois III, 19 at the time of the killings, had been working at his father’s office and didn’t go fishing that day.
He is now a pediatrician at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. He specializes in infectious diseases and teaches medical classes.
“When I look at him, it’s almost like looking at his dad,” Maria said, beaming. “His father would be very, very proud of him.”
Her daughter, Anna, lives in Atlanta with her family.
Maria never would remarry. She finally met a companion about 10 years ago.
“It is nice to have someone to share everything with. It’s much better than to be alone for 20 years,” Maria said. “Life has gotten better in that way.”
Still, she always wonders what life would have been like to grow old with her husband. She wonders what kind of men her little boys would have become. Tears flow down her cheeks.
There was Eric who had turned 13 just two days before the shootings.
Family pictures show the boy sitting behind a chocolate frosted cake with family members nearby at a table inside the Holmes Beach vacation home.
He was quiet, intelligent and played practical jokes, Maria says. She still smiles as she recalls him hiding under pillows on her bed and jumping out to surprise her.
The youngest, Mark, was very smart. She proudly recalls when, as a first-grader, he corrected his teacher on the spelling of Antarctica in front of his classmates.
“He was happy-go-lucky. He was very affectionate,” she said.
Maria focuses on those memories, especially on this date each year.
“This happens every year. I think about it. I try to get busy,” she said quietly. “At least with Juan here, we try to get together. One of his children has very much the same personality as my Mark here. I look at him and it reminds me so much of him.
“We don’t talk about what happened to them, but we remember. It’s just something you can’t forget.”
Beth Burger, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7919.