On June 4, 1989, the crew of a sailboat passing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay spotted something floating in the sea. It was the body of a woman, face down in the water and with her hands and feet tied. She was also naked from the waist down, with a rope around her neck. Then a second female body was spotted in exactly the same condition, two miles north of the pier at St. Petersburg. And a third bound female corpse would also be found floating about 600 feet to the east of the pier.
When the three bodies were recovered, however, they were found to have other things in common. The victims all had duct tape covering their mouths, for instance. Furthermore, the rope around each of their necks also turned out to be attached to concrete blocks. It seemed, then, that whoever was responsible for the deaths of the three women had wanted to weigh their corpses down so that they would sink to the seabed. However, as the bodies had decomposed in the warm summer water, they had seemingly bloated with gases and risen to the surface. In addition, autopsies on the corpses revealed seawater in each set of lungs, proving that the women had been thrown into the ocean alive. And the bodies’ partial nakedness suggested a sexual element to the killings.
Unfortunately, though, the ways in which the bodies had decomposed made them difficult to identify. But a breakthrough of sorts came on June 8, when a maid at Tampa’s Days Inn divulged some information. Specifically, she reported that a room at the hotel there had not been occupied for days – despite three women having checked into it a week earlier. The trio’s luggage had also not been unpacked, and nor had the bathroom and beds been used. Police subsequently dusted the motel room and found prints matching those on the unidentified bodies. They belonged to three women from the same family who had been on vacation from the Midwest: Jo, Michelle and Christe Rogers.