Florida set to execute man for 1989 triple murder of tourists

TALLAHASSEE, Fla Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:20am EST

Oba Chandler in an undated photo. REUTERS/Florida Department of Corrections

Oba Chandler in an undated photo.

Credit: Reuters/Florida Department of Corrections

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - A Florida inmate is set to be put to death on Tuesday for the 1989 murders of an Ohio woman and her two daughters, who stopped the killer to ask for directions following a trip to Disney World.

Oba Chandler, 65, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 4 p.m. local time at Florida State Prison near Starke.

Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14, were traveling from Orlando back to Willshire, Ohio when they met Chandler in Tampa after becoming lost searching for their motel in June 1989, authorities said.

Chandler gave them directions to a Days Inn and then apparently offered to take them on a sunset cruise on his boat, "Gypsy One," that evening on Tampa Bay.

They were never seen alive again. Their three bodies -- bound, gagged and naked below the waist -- were found floating in Tampa Bay three days later.

The highly publicized case went unsolved for three years, during which time Chandler, an aluminum contractor by trade, sold his boat and moved to Daytona Beach.

The cold case was reopened after investigators found new evidence, including a palm print and a handwriting sample scribbled on a tourist brochure taken from Rogers' car. Local officials posted billboards in the Tampa Bay area showing the distinctive handwriting, which led to Chandler's arrest in 1992.

At trial, prosecutors said Chandler had lured the trio to his boat, raped them and dumped them into the bay with cement blocks tied around their necks to make sure they sank. Chandler testified he had given Rogers directions but said he was out fishing alone the night of the murders.

A Canadian tourist testified that she had been raped by Chandler under similar circumstances a few weeks before the murders.

Chandler was convicted in September 1994 and sentenced to death on three counts for first degree murder. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Chandler's death warrant in October.

The Florida Supreme Court, which has twice upheld Chandler's convictions and sentence, declined to hear another round of arguments earlier this month.

Chandler would be the 71st inmate put to death since Florida resumed executions in the 1970s and the second to die this year. Thirty-nine executions have been carried out in the United States in 2011.

Ohio on Tuesday is scheduled to execute Reginald Brooks, who killed his three sons after his wife served him with divorce papers in 1982.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)

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