Genetic genealogy has led Florida investigators to a suspect in a 2016 killing – and that same suspect has been linked through DNA and other forensic evidence to at least three other slayings from a decade prior, authorities said today.Even with that link, it was a cigarette butt that the suspect dropped at a bus station last week that led to his arrest, court documents indicate.Robert Hayes, 37, was arrested Sunday without incident. A Palm Beach County judge ordered him held without bail Monday on a first-degree murder charge, pending a grand jury proceeding.
Hayes, wearing a dark jail uniform, his wrists shackled at his waist, appeared alongside a public defender.The county’s Office of the Public Defender said it does not comment on pending cases.”We will keep working every single day, every single hour until we find these monsters that are out here and do these things because I can guarantee you, folks, if we hadn’t put this individual in jail, he would’ve done this again and we would’ve had another innocent victim out here,” Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told reporters.
Though Hayes has been charged only with 32-year-old Rachel Bey’s March
2016 strangulation death in Palm Beach County, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri said Hayes will be charged in at least three killings in that city: those of Laquetta Gunther, 45, in 2005; Julie Green, 34, in 2006; and Iwana Patton, 35, in 2006, all of whom were shot in the head.Investigators will continue their investigations to determine if Hayes is a suspect in any other killings, including that of 30-year-old Stacey Gage in 2008, authorities said.
DNA obtained in the Bey investigation matches DNA in the Gunther and Green probes, Chief Capri said.Patton’s body spent a long time in the woods after her killing, complicating efforts to collect DNA, the chief said, but ballistic evidence in her death – namely, a casing from a .40-calibre firearm – links hers to the other Daytona Beach killings.Calling Hayes a “disgusting serial killer”, Chief Capri said the delay in charging Hayes in the other three killings stems from his department’s desire to build a “solid, solid case” against him and to ensure he never gets out of prison.”I can’t be more happy today that we got this killer off the street so nobody else can become a victim, and now we’re going to tie some loose ends up and then move forward with going after this guy and prosecuting him for these three murders,” he said.
There is no rush to file the Daytona Beach charges because Hayes is in jail and isn’t a threat to the public, State Attorney R.J. Larizza said. It was too early to say whether his office will pursue the death penalty, he said.”We’re going to be right when we ultimately make the charging decision in these cases,” the prosecutor said.Police have informed the families of Hayes’ arrest. Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood, who was Daytona Beach’s police chief at the time of the killings, says he personally spoke with one victim’s family.”They are obviously ecstatic. They didn’t think they’d be alive to see this day come,” he said.Hayes has only a minor criminal history, involving traffic violations, Chief Capri said.A student at Bethune-Cookman University at the time of the Daytona Beach killings, Hayes was questioned by law enforcement because of a firearm purchase he had made, the chief said.It was one of hundreds of interviews that law enforcement conducted in the case, he said.