Florida Mother Who Was Dismembered Texted Her Mom That She ‘Needed Help,’ Before Grisly Murder: Police

A Florida man has been arrested and charged in the murder of the Florida mother of two whose dismembered remains were found by a fisherman in Tampa’s McKay Bay last month, officials said.

Robert Lee Kessler, 69, has been charged with second-degree murder and abuse of a dead body in the death of 47-year-old Stephanie Crone-Overholts, Interim Tampa Police Chief Ruben Delgado said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Kessler, who was already in custody on an unrelated drug charge, was booked Wednesday on the murder and abuse charges, Delgado said. 

He is currently being held at Salkenburg Jail. His bond is $2,500 for possession of cocaine with intent to sell and deliver, $7,500 for abuse of a dead body, and no bond for murder in the second degree, a deputy from the Hillsborough County Jail told Inside Editon Digital.

On Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Hillsborough County Court, he is scheduled for an in-person pre-trial detention hearing, Hillsborough County Public Information Officer Mike Moore told Digital.

Kessler is also being represented by the public defender, Moore said.

During the press conference, Delgado said Crone-Overholts recently relocated to Lutz, Florida from Erie, Pennsylvania. She had met Kessler at a fast-food restaurant. Delgado said Kessler had a history of drug activity and had been in prison several times.

He said it was unclear how many months Crone-Overholts had been living in Florida before meeting Kessler.

On Nov. 11, Erie Police Department Police Chief Daniel Spizarny told Digital that Crone-Overholts mother filed a missiong person’s report. Spizarny said Crone-Overholts mother told officers that “she received a text message from her daughter saying that she needed help, there had not been any response after that.” 

That same day, a local fisherman found a woman’s leg on McKay Beach, in the area of 22nd Causeway Bridge, and immediately contacted police, Digital previously reported.

On Nov, 12, additional parts were located in McKay Bay, a report said.

The victim had a tattoo on her lower leg of three hearts with a ribbon around each with the names Sean, Greg, and Zach. Tampa Police released an image asking anyone who recognized the tattoos to contact police, officials said.

Once the photo went viral, the Crone-Overholts family identified that it was their loved one.

During the investigation, Delgado said detectives learned that Crone-Overholts had disappeared during her stay at Robert Kessler’s home in Lutz, Fl. On Nov. 14, detectives went to the address and spoke to Kessler, 

Kessler told investigators he had met Crone-Overholts, at a parking lot in McDonald’s. He said they started talking since Kessler once lived in Erie, Pa. He told detectives that Crone-Overholts had been living out of her car, and that he offered her a place to stay, WFLA previously reported.

“Me and my little girl met her and she had a Pennsylvania plate and was in her car, and it was obvious to see that she was homeless and stayed in her car, and she explained to me that her ankles swell up because she slept in her car.”

Kessler continued: “I just invited her to stay because I have three bedrooms and two baths, and she was from Erie, Pennsylvania, and I had worked for the City of Erie one time 40 years ago,” he said. 

Delgado said during the news conference that evidence that was recovered indicated that Kessler had been lying.

Two days after speaking to Kessler, authorities found Crone-Overholts car, a 2008 silver Hyundai Elantra, abandoned. Her blood was found inside the car. Additional evidence was collected from the vehicle and sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), officials said.

On November 19th, detectives obtained a warrant to search Kessler’s van and home. Kessler told police he did not know what happened to Crone-Overholts, WFLA previously reported. 

The following day, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner confirmed that Crone-Overholts’ death was ruled a homicide, Tampa Bay Public Information Officer Rose Angelakopoulos previously told Digital

Officials said it was unclear exactly when Crone-Overholts was killed. Her manner of death was not revealed. The case is an active investigation. 

Authorities did not disclose the nature of the relationship between Crone-Overholts and Kessler. 

Delgado said that “detectives still have a lot of work to do.” “We are confident we have the right guy off the street. Anyone with information or who may who saw them together would be helpful.”

Crone-Overholts’ older son Sean told the Tampa Bay Times that “this has been a living nightmare,” and said “it is unimaginable what she [his mother] went through.”

“She did not deserve what happened to her,” Sean said upon hearing the news of the arrest of Kessler, WFLA reported 

He told the news outlet that his mother did not always make the best decisions in her life but that she loved her family very much.

 

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