Suspected serial killer arrested, linked to cold-case rape and murders of 3 women in Daytona Beach, Fla., stretching back 14 years
Robert Tyrone Hayes, 37, was tied to the Central Florida killings after a similar 2016 homicide in Palm Beach
Police have worked more than a decade to solve the killings of LaQuetta Gunther, Julie Ann Green and Iwana Patton, whose bodies were found in Daytona Beach between 2005 and 2006
Break in cold-case came March 7, 2016, a road crew worker found a nude body later identified as 32-year-old Rachel Elizabeth Bey
DNA from semen recovered from Bey as well as a swab of her hands, drew a match to two of the three Daytona Beach cold cases
Investigators staked out Hayes who had been questioned during the initial investigation of the Daytona Beach killings, a decade earlier
Palm Beach fugitive task force retrieved half smoked cigarette Hayes discarded while waiting for a bus near his home
His DNA was match to the semen and skin sample left by the assailant in Bey’s case, as well as those in Daytona Beach
Police are investigating the death of a fourth victim in Daytona Beach from 2008 for a possible link to Hayes – 30-year-old Stacey Gage, died under similar circumstances as the three other women from that area
Serial murder suspect Robert Tyrone Hayes [photo], was arrested over the weekend in South Florida, tied to four murders
A suspected serial killer linked to the deaths of at least four women in the past 14 years in Florida, three confirmed in Daytona Beach, was arrested over the weekend in South Florida, law enforcement officials announced Monday.
Robert Tyrone Hayes, 37, was tied to the Central Florida killings after a similar 2016 homicide in Palm Beach, Daytona Beach police said.
As of Monday, Hayes had only been arrested in the Palm Beach County case. However, DNA evidence collected in that killing matched samples from the Daytona Beach homicides, he said.
“At this point in time, we have not charged him yet with ours, but we have linked him with forensic evidence to three of our murder victims,”” said Palm Beach Police Chief Ben Capri, who called Hayes a “disgusting serial killer.”
Police have worked more than a decade to solve the killings of LaQuetta Gunther, Julie Ann Green and Iwana Patton, whose bodies were found in Daytona Beach between 2005 and 2006. Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who was previously police chief for Daytona Beach, said Monday he had spoken to one of the victims’ family members to convey the long-awaited news.
“They are absolutely ecstatic,” he said. “They didn’t think they’d be alive to see this day come.”
Victims: LaQuetta Gunther [left], Julie Ann Green and Iwana Patton [right] were all victims of unsolved murders in Daytona Beach, Fla between 2005 and 2006. Robert Hayes has just been arrested in their deaths
The killings began in the waning days of 2005. Gunther was the first of at least three victims of a serial killer in Daytona Beach.
That’s when Gunther was last seen alive. The 45-year-old painter and labor hall worker left the Daytona Beach home of her best friend, Stacey Dittmer, on Christmas Eve, promising to return in a few hours so they could complete a holiday tradition of cooking a full Christmas dinner together.
Her partially nude body was found later in an alley on North Street. She had a bullet through the back of her head.
Green’s body was found at a construction site off LPGA Boulevard Jan. 14, 2006. She, too, had been shot in the head. A Jacksonville native with two daughters, Green, 34, was among a group of friends who had signed a poster that was hung in Gunther’s memory in the alley where she was found.
They also both frequented Willie’ Place, a bar on Madison Avenue.
Patton, a 35-year-old nursing assistant who lived in Holly Hill, was found dead off a dirt path near Williamson Boulevard and Mason Avenue the following month.
In addition to proximity, police said the three women were linked by a history of prostitution. The fourth woman whose death has over the years been attributed to the same killer, Stacey Gage, did not have a prostitution record but died under similar circumstances.
The 30-year-old woman was found near Hancock Boulevard Jan. 2, 2008.
“We don’t know at this point in time if it’s related,” Capri said Monday of Gage’s killing. “We’re still investigating that.”
The break in the case came after another slaying across the state: On March 7, 2016, a road crew worker found the body of a nude woman, later identified as 32-year-old Rachel Elizabeth Bey, along State Road 710 in Jupiter.
On March 7, 2016, a road crew worker found the nude body of 32-year-old Rachel Elizabeth Bey, along State Road 710 in Jupiter, in palm Beach, Fla. DNA evidence from the autopsy led to the arrest of suspected serial killer Robert Tyrone Hayes
Stacey Dittmer holds a box containing the ashes of her best friend, LaQuetta Gunther, in her Daytona Beach home, the first known victim among least three victims of a serial killer in Daytona Beach
An autopsy determined that Bey had been strangled. Evidence near her body — including drag marks and a lack of blood — suggested that the killing had happened elsewhere. She showed signs of having been beaten, including fractures to her jaw and broken teeth.
“There were also obvious injuries about her hands and arms that could be consistent with defensive injuries,” a probable cause affidavit said.
Investigators determined that Bey was a prostitute who operated in West Palm Beach. She had last been seen by a close friend the same day her body was found, walking near Dixie Highway about 2 a.m.
DNA from semen recovered from Bey during an autopsy, as well as a swab of one of Bey’s hands, drew a match to two of the three Daytona Beach cold cases. Investigators soon zeroed in on Hayes, who had lived in Daytona Beach during the period of the homicides there and, in 2016, about a mile from where Bey was last seen alive.
On Sept. 13, agents with a Palm Beach sheriff’s fugitive task force were watching Hayes as he smoked and discarded a cigarette while waiting for a bus near his home. They collected the butt and had it processed for DNA — finding a match to Bey’s case, as well as those in Daytona Beach, the affidavit said.
Hayes had been questioned during the initial investigation of the Daytona Beach killings. Although he had bought a gun the same month as Gunther’s death, .40 caliber, the same as that killed Gunther, he told detectives when interviewed several months later he had given it to his mother, according to the affidavit.
However, a year after Gunther’s killing, he reported a .40 caliber gun stolen from his vehicle in Riviera Beach.
As officials announced Hayes’ arrest Monday, State Attorney R.J. Larizza of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia County, praised detectives for their diligent work pursuing the challenging case and their use of modern technology to crack i
“We are truly in a brave new world and we have brave folks that are helping put these cases together,” he said.