31: SERIAL KILLER post thumbnail image

Robert Hayes.  Three women are found dead in Daytona Beach over the course of three months in December 2005 through February 2006. The crime scenes give up little evidence and there is no clue who the killer was. Ten years later CODIS returns a a hit with a new murder victim in Palm Beach, Florida. The two departments team up to work together on capturing this killer. Finally this case was solved through genetic genealogy.


Volusia Country Court records. Trial Transcripts.

The Palm Beach Post. Brother recalls loving sibling found dead off Beeline road. By Hannah Winston. March 13, 2016.



On Monday March 7, 2016, in a rural part of Palm Beach County near Jupiter Florida, some construction workers surveying the area for pipes where the county was widening the highway discovered the body of a woman. The woman was completely nude, lying face down with no identification. There are drag marks in the gravel dirt area where she is laying. Police can see that her body was dumped there on the side of the road. She had been strangled and was badly beaten. She had numerous defensive wounds and looked like she had put up a fight. During the autopsy by the medical examiner a sexual assault kit is done, and they retrieve some DNA of her murderer.

Police eventually identified her through her fingerprints. They discovered she is 32-year-old Rachel Bey. Rachel was born in North Carolina, but her family moved to Salerno, Florida when she was around 5 or 6 years old. Her brother Aliahu described her as a loving and caring sister. Rachel had worked at one time as a nursing assistant in a nursing home and as a home care nurse. But she had fallen into trouble with drugs and was having a hard time making positive changes in her life. Her brother said they tried to get her to move out of Florida, but she was never able to make that change. Her family was devastated when she was found murdered. They really struggled with the loss of their sister.

Rachel did have an extensive arrest record for prostitution and drug offenses. But Police were taking her murder seriously and submitted the DNA of her attacker for identification. Luckily Palm Beach has their own laboratory to process DNA collection. Having their own lab shortens the time it takes to get a profile and once they get that profile it is added to the Combined DNA Index System. You know this by its lovely acronym CODIS. What CODIS does is compare any new profile to other profiles in the system. And sometimes it comes back with a match. Sometimes this match is a name, sometimes the match is a profile connected with a different crime. And in December 2016 the detectives in Palm Beach County are notified there is a match to their DNA profile in Rachel’s case.

The DNA in Rachel’s case leads to three unsolved murders in December 2005 and early 2006. A killer known as the Daytona Beach Killer. So, the two departments decide to begin working together to capture this killer. 2017 and 2018 are significant years in DNA and crime solving. But the investigative team was not having luck and it was looking like the two cases may go cold again.

Then April 24, 2018, happened. Do you recognize that day? It was like a nuclear bomb went off in the true crime world. The Golden State Killer – Joseph DeAngelo was arrested. He was identified through a procedure known as genetic genealogy. This is where the police search profiles that have some sort of match to their suspect DNA. They use these profiles to create a family tree and they work their way inward to get as close of a relative as they can. Sometimes this is a 3rd or 4th cousin, sometimes it’s closer, like a sibling or a parent. But however, they get the profile, they then must verify that relationship. It takes a lot of time.

So, they did this genetic genealogy with the DNA profiles found in 2005/6 and 2016 and they are led to a woman. The profile shows the killer is the half-brother of this woman. And when the police begin to investigate this woman, they find out she has three half-brothers. And they find one of them lives in Palm Beach County, near where Rachel Bey lived. 

Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First let’s go back to 2005.

On December 26, 2005, a couple of snowbirds who live in Port Orange, Florida six months out of the year and the other six months in Michigan. Their Volkswagen was making some noise, so Leroy Vaughan decides to visit a local Volkswagen repair shop. He had bought some parts and supplies to change the oil in his car before and the manager had told him they were open every day except Sunday.

But when Leroy gets there, the shop is closed for the week between Christmas and New Year. A few years before Leroy had to have his prostrate removed, and this made him need to go to the bathroom often. And that was the case this day. He needed to go but the shop was closed so he walked around the side and stepped into the alley beside the shop so he could relieve himself.

When he gets into the alley, he sees what he thinks is a mannequin up against the fence at the back of the alley. And let’s all sing a chorus of “it’s never a mannequin”. And I think Leroy probably knew it wasn’t really a mannequin because his curiosity got to him, so he approached. And as he got closer, he realized it wasn’t a mannequin it was the body of a woman. She was completely nude, her clothing was balled up underneath her, and she was on her knees with her head on the ground. About the time he is realizing what he is seeing he starts to smell that smell…the smell that says something or someone is dead.

So, Leroy high tails it out of the alley and heads straight to his car. When he got in, he told his wife to call 911 because he had just found a dead body in the alley. And Mrs. Leroy Vaughan (her name wasn’t in the court records) says “you better get me out of here right now. You can call 911 when we get home.” So that’s what Leroy did. He drove them to their house and called 911 from there.

After the call came into 911, they dispatched a patrol car to check out the alley and what Leroy reported was verified and then crime scene investigators were called to come out to the scene. The investigator Detective Tom Youngman starts to gather evidence and take pictures of the scene. He can see there is quite a bit of damage to her head, but he isn’t sure yet if it’s a gunshot, or she was beaten.

The alleyway has lots of trash in it and once the body of the woman is removed, he starts to photograph all the trash and catalog everything, since they are not sure what is evidence and what isn’t. The call to 911 came in late in the afternoon, 4:25 or so, and its winter so the sun is going down fast. They had to close off the scene and post an officer to make sure nothing was tampered with because it was too dark to keep working.

The next day Youngman attends the autopsy where they take pictures of all the woman’s tattoos and perform a sexual assault exam. These are commonly called a rape kit or sexual assault kit and the medical examiner gets scrapings from under the nails, swabs from the body and collect hair and fibers on the body. Once all of this is cataloged, they seal it up with red tape (literal red tape) and send it to the lab for processing.

During the autopsy the medical examiner confirms the woman had been shot in the back of her head. The bullet exited through the front and went into her right hand. Once they realized she had been shot they returned to the alley and looked through all the dirt and trash to try and locate the shell casing. But unfortunately, they are unable to find it. Later the casing is found inside her clothing that was collected for evidence.

Later they can identify the victim through her fingerprints as 45 year old Laquetta Gunther. The second detective working on the case, Rob Grimm, begins to do a neighborhood canvas to see if anyone can pinpoint when they saw her last, or who she might have been with.

While the detectives are working on Laquetta’s case they are getting leads, but nothing significant. They find out that Laquetta was making holiday plans with a friend 2 days before Christmas. But she never showed up at her friend’s house the night she was supposed to.  Before they can really get momentum on Laquetta’s murder, on January 14, 2006, they are called to another scene with another woman.

This time the body is in an area that is not developed yet. There were some roads that were partially paved, there were houses being built. It was a newly developed housing neighborhood called Bayberry. She is in a grassy, marshy area. Robert Hardman is the superintendent in charge of the building crews. At about 9 AM on January 14th, he is driving in to work in the model home that is situated across the street from where all the new homes are being built. As he is driving down the road, he notices a woman lying on the ground in a grassy area that wasn’t developed yet. He sees that she isn’t moving so he rolls down his window and yells at her, to see if he can get her attention. But she doesn’t respond. So, he parks his car and walks toward her. As he gets closer, he can see a large pool of blood around her head and can tell she is not breathing. He immediately called 911.

The area where this woman is found it a one lane dirt road that is not heavily traveled. It was mostly used by construction vehicles. Daytona Beach police officer Charles Fields arrived on the scene and immediately set up a perimeter. The woman was lying face down, fully naked, with her clothes laying on the ground next to her. Officer Fields could see a large wound to her head. Detective Youngman and Detective Steven Grant were notified of this second body. Detective Grant was asked to search the area for evidence. About four feet from where the woman’s body lay, he found a projectile (or casing). He said he said it when the sun sort of shined off it. This shell casing was for a Federal S & W .40 caliber. (for clarification, Federal is a manufacturer. They sometimes have different brand names but will still be stamped Federal on the strike plate) A second shell casing was also found, but they weren’t sure if it was tied to this murder or not. Some tire impressions were taken. Luckily the area around the woman was mostly dirt, enough that they were able to get a couple of good impressions. The tracks were found directly across from where the woman’s body lay. There were lots of tire marks from the construction vehicles, but police felt confident these two were fresh and from the killer. They were on top and hadn’t been run over by other vehicles. And I don’t know how you can tell, but they were able to tell the tire tracks were leaving the area. They also showed movement at a high rate of speed.

The medical examiners arrived at the scene and took the woman back to the ME’s office and performed an autopsy along with a sexual assault kit. Later they were able to identify this woman as Julie Green. Her friends and family knew her as Sissy. She had a drug problem and was known as a “hustler” by some of her friends. A friend of hers named Richard Marcott said they would spend days together hanging out and doing drugs. But on the day of January 13th, she left their apartment saying she was making plans to visit her dad. Richard wasn’t too concerned when she hadn’t been around for a few days, because that was the norm for her. She sorts of floated from place to place. Richard said she was a hustler; she was always able to come up with money. He said he was stunned when he was told she had been murdered. He felt like she was always able to talk her way out of some bad situations.

With little evidence the detectives are having a hard time finding who may have done this to Sissy. After they identified Julie Green and put together the commonalities (both engaged in sex work, both found naked, both shot in the head) they began to think these two cases were related.

At the scene and later at the medical examiner’s office they took some pictures of Julie’s feet. They were very dirty and appeared to have mud or grease stuck to the bottom of them. But the officers weren’t sure if that was something significant or not. As they are processing this scene around the construction site a tip comes in about a vehicle in the area, so officer Tammy Pera is dispatched to surveil a U-Pull-It vehicle. She follows the trailer to a junkyard. They go in and talk to the two people working, but nothing really comes of it. There are a few mechanics working on cars, and lots of debris around but nothing really comes of this tip.

A little over a month later February 24, 2006, Daytona Beach police officer David Abner is dispatched to a wooded area where a body has been found. The area now is developed with an outlet mall and other shopping areas and the police department now stands, but in 2006 it was mostly just a wooded lot and some hay fields. Officer Abner arrives at the scene and finds a fire truck and ambulance had also arrived. Three firemen tell the officer they spotted the body and called it in. It’s about 50 yards from the main roadway, but the officer could clearly see it. He then called his supervisor to report the body and then set up a perimeter to secure the area.

Now the police are connecting the two previous cases and thinking this third body may also be connected. The condition of the body was like the other two. She is naked with socks on, and the rest of her clothes are strewn about, and she is laying face down. There was also lots of construction degree around since there was some development going on in the area. The woman has a visible head wound with blood around her head. The detectives scan the area for other evidence and the same type of shell casing, a Federal S & W .40 caliber casing is found.

The medical examiner performed an autopsy and a sexual assault kit. During the autopsy they didn’t find the bullet, so the detectives returned to the scene and did a grid search of the area around where the body had been found. They did not locate the .40 caliber bullet, but they did find a second shell for a .22 caliber about 20 feet from where the body was. This second search also turned up some tire tracks. They took impressions. They also found some other pieces of possible evidence, a rolled-up lotto ticket, they were maybe used to snort cocaine, a torn piece of paper or food wrapper, some sunglasses and a couple of condom wrappers. The detective bagged these items, not knowing if they were evidence or not. There were some weird markings in the dirt near the body that could have been drag marks, or possibly skid marks from a tire.

During the autopsy the woman was identified as Iwana Patton. Iwana was a caregiver at an assisted living facility. She was staying at a home owned by her employer Sharon Kist, but she had found an apartment and was planning to move in the next few days. Her job required her to work two 24 hour shifts each week. Her normal work schedule was Monday and Wednesdays. She would report to work at 8PM and work until 8PM the next day. On Thursday February 23rd she left her shift at the normal time when the next caregiver arrived. She left her job as normal.

Once the police had the name of the victim, they realized she had a car. They began a search of the area looking for her 1998 White Ford Escort. A BOLO was sent out to the patrol units as well. It takes a few hours, but her car is located a few blocks from where her body was found. The car is kind of parked poorly, like not straight in the space. It’s also in an area that is known for prostitution and sex workers and very close to where the first victim Laquetta Gunther was found a few months earlier in December.

Now they are thinking they have a third victim of the same series on their hands. Iwana was also a known sex worker and the look of the crime scene was eerily similar. The lead detective was changed on the case. Youngman was reassigned and Tammy Pera Marcum was assigned as the lead detective. She received a notice from the Florida DLE that there was a connection between Laquetta Gunther and Iwana Patton. Foreign DNA was located on both victims matched. This was a monumental finding. It officially connected the two scenes. Also, ballistics reports comparing the shell casings connected the scene where Julie “Sissy” Green was found and the scene where Iwana Patton was found. So now we know all three are from the same perpetrator.

Once there was proof of the connections between the three murders a joint task force was formed between the Daytona Beach department, the states attorney’s office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This team interviewed hundreds of people and collected DNA samples. No matches came back from these hundreds of swabs. But they tested all of them no matter what. They also canvased the area where firearms were sold. They located and test fired every Smith & Wesson .40 caliber VE firearm. All these test fires were sent to be matched against the shells and casings found at the three crime scenes. The task force also received hundreds of tips which they had to run down. But each person of interest was eliminated when their DNA did not match the DNA found on the bodies of Laquetta Gunther and Iwana Patton. 

A tire was located at the U-Pull-It junkyard that matched the tire tracks found at the scene where Julie Green was. But this tire didn’t lead to any sort of break in the case. It was just an exact match to the print, but they couldn’t identify where it came from. The team also looked at finding the gun. The .40 caliber Smith & Wesson model had only begun distribution in 2003, but the manufacturer said there were up to 10,000 sold in the 3 years it had been on the market. A canvas of the licensed firearms distributors began. They subpoenaed the records of people that purchased this specific firearm in Daytona Beach. They began contacting the owners of the guns and with those they made contact with they asked for permission to test fire the gun, and then had the casings compared to the casings found at the Green and Patton crime scenes. On March 15, 2006, one of the task force members assigned to track down the owners of the guns contacted one man who said he had purchased the gun but gave it to his mother who lived in Palm Beach. He provided her phone number to the officer. During this canvas the officers did not disclose to the gun owners why they were interested in the gun. They only said it was a criminal investigation and assistance was needed from the public. Unfortunately, there is no indication that this was followed up.

After the discovery of Iwana Patton on February 24th, there were no other murders that seem to be connected to this series of murders.

In December 2006 a man walked into the Riviera Beach police department. Riviera Beach is in Orange County Florida near Palm Beach. The man tells the officer that he wanted to report his gun as stolen. The Officer sits down with him to take the report, and as he is hearing the story and taking down the report, he just doesn’t believe this guy’s story. The man sad he had left his gun on the passenger side floorboard. He was visiting a friend at an apartment complex in town. The complex was known to police as not a great area, they respond to calls there often. The officer asked this man if his car was damaged in the break in and was told no, the windows were left down. This is what peaks the officer’s interest and makes him doubt the man’s story. Who leaves a gun in plain sight on the floorboard of the car and also leaves the windows down? But even though he doesn’t really believe the man he takes the report down. He asks if he has the serial number, and the man gives him the serial number and purchase price of the stolen Smith & Wesson gun.  

So now we are back to 2016. Rachel Bey is living with a friend named Jose Gonzales. Rachel was a sex worker, but she didn’t have a pimp, she advertised on Back Page or just walked the streets looking for work. On the afternoon of March 7, 2016, Rachel was talking on the phone with someone and told Gonzales she was heading out for a quick date and would be back shortly. He couldn’t remember if Rachel made the first contact or if the person called her. Later that evening around 10PM Jose called Rachel and talked to her for a minute or two. Rachel told Jose she was with someone and couldn’t talk right then, she told him she’d call him when she was on her way home. After this call ended around 10:08 Jose could not get an answer from Rachel. She didn’t answer his calls or texts.

Rachel’s body was found on March 7th in a rural section of Beeline Highway. The area she was found in was an open grassy area that had not been developed yet. The body was found lying face down on the side of the road off the paved section in a marshy muddy area along the roadway. Crime scene investigators searched the area and didn’t find any of her belongings nearby. This led them to believe she had been killed elsewhere and then brought to this location. There were marks in the gravel and dirt. They noticed small scratches and scrapes on her shoulders and back, her toes also had some damage to them that led them to believe these were actual drag marks. The detective assigned to the case said the drag marks were about 40 feet long and they could actually see where a car had been parked and the drag marks moved from the car, directly to where her body lay.

The crime scene investigator made the decision to do the sexual assault kit there on the side of the road. They were concerned that sinch she had possibly been transported there from a different crime scene valuable evidence would be lost in transport. After her body was moved to the medical examiner’s office, the autopsy was performed. When the crime lab processed all the swabs and clippings from Rachel’s body, they were able to isolate three DNA profiles. One was Rachel’s which they use as a base line to isolate the foreign DNA. The other two on profile wasn’t complete. But the third profile had several markers, and they submitted this profile to CODIS in April of 2017.

Two days after her body was found, Jose Gonzales called the police to say he thinks he knows who the body was. The news had been reporting on the unidentified woman and he saw the story. Since he hadn’t been able to get a hold of her since the night of the 7th, he feared it was her. Once he gave them her name they were able to pull up her fingerprints in their system from a previous arrest and with that they knew the body was that of Rachel Bey.

The police were working hard to run down leads on Rachel’s case. This is before they got the confirmation of the DNA profiles back. That didn’t happen until December 2016. In the mean time they were following leads and contacting Rachel’s friends and family and talking to people in the areas she was known to frequent. They also had billboards and bus benches with a $5000 reward put up asking for info. But despite this, where her body had been found didn’t give them any clues as to who did this. They were working on the case but getting nowhere.

By this time the three cases in Daytona Beach had been assigned to a new cold case detective named David Dinardi. Detective Dinardi took the 20 bankers boxes filled with the investigation and reviewed all the information in them. At the time of the three murders in 2005 and 2006 Dinardi was a patrol officer and not involved in the case at all. So, this was a fresh eye looking at everything contained in the boxes. He put together a list of similarities the 3 murders had, the three women were all the roughly the same height and weight, there were all known to frequent the same area of Daytona Beach, and they were all known to engage in some type of prostitution (or sex work). He also thought the locations where each of their bodies had been found were secluded and out of the way. They were all found naked, and the three women also had the same cause of death. A single gunshot wound to the head.

In December 2016 Detective Dinardi received notice that there is a CODIS hit to one of his cases. The notice doesn’t give much information, just the case number and the other agency. When Detective Dinardi contacted the Palm Beach detective they reviewed the cases from Daytona Beach and the new case of Rachel Bey in Palm Beach and felt they had enough similarities, so they decided to work together to hopefully find the murderer.

By the Spring of 2018 they were getting kind of discouraged, there wasn’t a lot to go on. The 4 crime scenes offered very little in evidence that could be used to figure out who the killer was. And then Sacramento DA and police announced they had identified and arrested the Golden State Killer by use of genetic genealogy. This new investigative technique has blown the lid off many cold cases. And the two departments decided to submit the DNA profiles from Laquette Gunther and Rachel Bey. So Parabon Labs was given the samples with the hope that they could build a family tree from the DNA databases of 23andMe and and other DNA databases like those. If a relative can be found, they can research it out until they find the killer. It’s not an easy process and it takes time.

In late 2018 the DNA samples were sent to Parabon to begin building a family tree. In early 2019, the team was able to track down the first relative of this DNA sample. A woman named Anastacia Anastico who had enough of a DNA match to be a second or third cousin. An investigator was sent out to interview Anastacio and that led them to a woman named Terris Wilson Collins.

The investigators went to talk to Ms. Collins. She had already used one of the commercial DNA testing sites like Ancestry or 23andMe and she allowed the detectives to have access to her DNA profile. The DNA match of Ms. Collins to the unknown DNA was very high. High enough to be a half-sibling.

The FDLE lab had already determined the unknown DNA contributor was a male. So this led investigators to check into Ms. Collins siblings and see if she had any half-brothers. She had three – Jesse Fleming, John Barfield, and Robert Hayes. She also had one full brother named Gregory Wilson. But based on the level of the match they were able to quickly rule out Gregory Wilson. They knew they were looking for one of the half-brothers.

The three half-brothers were located, and law enforcement was sent to surveille them 24 hours a day. They were looking for them to discard anything that could be used to collect DNA. On the morning of September 13, 2019, police were watching as one of the half-brothers left his apartment and was walking down the road in West Palm Beach. He makes his way down the road to a bus stop. The agents begin to move and one of them stands at the bus stop with him ready to board the bus is their target does. As they are standing at the bus stop the half-brother is smoking a cigarette and the agent is waiting for him to discard it. As the bus was approaching the bus stop he finishes the cigarette and throws in to the pavement. As soon as the man boarded the bus the officer put on a rubber glove and picked up the cigarette butt. The butt was sealed into a paper bag and passed off to another investigator. On another occasion while they were surveilling the half-brother they were able to pick up a discarded can he had been drinking from.

Another thing the team did was retest the DNA swabs from the 2005/6 cases. At the time of the original series they were only able to use 13 markers to match the DNA, but as the DNA technology has moved forward the labs are able to match 21 markers. So they had the swabs from the murders brought back to the FDLE lab and they retested what they could so they could use the full 21 markers to make a match.

On September 13th a cigarette butt that Jesse Fleming (one of the half-brothers) had used was brought to the lab for comparison. Jesse Fleming was not a match. On September 14th a cigarette butt and an aluminum beer can from Robert Hayes was brought to the lab for comparison. Robert Hayes is a match. The likelihood of the sample coming from someone else was 1 in 700 billion. This is the highest statistical cut off the lab can give for a match. No one else could have given that DNA. Now the team has to get a warrant to get Robert Hayes’s DNA directly from them. It’s not hard to do, they have proven probable cause already.

So, who is Robert Hayes? Robert Tyrone Hayes was born on March 12, 1982, in West Palm Beah Florida. He was the youngest of four children, and as we know he had several half-siblings. Hayes’s father was murdered shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his mother. There are some reports that Robert was physically abused as a child, but some of these claims are unsubstantiated. There is also a report that he had been molested by a family member when he was in his pre-teens early teen age. Robert Hayes says he was chubby as a child, and this led to him being bullied as a kid.

Robert Hayes was described by friends and family as being outspoken, friendly, and was someone friends and family could count on to help out when they needed someone. He was nicknamed squeaky, but I don’t know why that name came about. Robert had a good sense of humor and a fun and positive attitude. He was known to have an active sex life, with either girlfriends, or sex workers. He also attended sex parties and one time invited a family member to go to a sex party with him (ew). He does have a child that was born sometime in the early 2000’s but we are going to respect their privacy and not try to find them.

Between 2000 and 2006 Robert Hayes attended Bethune-Cookman College (now University) and studied Criminal Justice. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While attending college Robert Hayes was a member of the cheerleading squad. The three Daytona Beach murders took place during Hayes’s senior year. After his graduation he expressed interest in cooking and attempted to start his own cooking business in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On September 15, 2019, Palm Beach County officials arrested Robert Hayes at his West Palm Beach home. He was arrested for the murder of Rachel Bey and charged with one count of first-degree murder. He was held without bail and then later transferred to Volusia County Jail where Daytona Beach is. There he was charged with three additional counts of first-degree murder.

February 11, 2022, the trial for the Daytona Beach three began and went on for 11 days. At the end of the trial Hayes was found guilty of the murders of Laquetta Gunther, Julie Green, and Iwana Patton. On March 2nd, 2022, he was sentenced to three successive life sentences without parole. He is awaiting a separate trial for the murder of Rachel Bey.

Police think these four women may not have been his only victims. In 2007 the body of Stacy Gage was found shot in the head. She had disappeared around December 11, 2007. She did not have a history of sex work, but she was a known drug user. The circumstances of her murder seem very similar to the three previous murders.

Other possible victims are Regan Kendall who was found murdered near the Osceola Parkway, Kelly Lanthorne, her body was found near South Orange Blossom trail in Orange County, and Lisa Marie French was found in Sanford, Florida behind a warehouse.

And some have speculated he could be the Long Island Serial Killer who killed 10 women and dumped them in a marshy area near beaches along Long Island, New York. But there isn’t much evidence to connect Robert Hayes to those crimes.

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