Florida police believe they have finally caught a serial killer they've been seeking since 2005. Robert Hayes, 37, was arrested late Sunday and faces a first-degree murder charge in a 2016 slaying, and police say DNA taken from that victim matches other victims from nearly 14 years ago, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. The details:
- The 2016 murder: Rachel Bey, 32, was killed March 7, 2016, in Palm Beach. The body of Bey was found beaten, strangled, and sexually battered about 50 feet off the Beeline Highway west of Jupiter. Hayes was identified as a suspect and then linked to the crime through DNA from a cigarette he had smoked and thrown to the ground just two days before his arrest, police say. Bey was known to work as a prostitute near where Hayes lived in Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Post reports.
- DNA match: The DNA taken from Bey matched DNA that had been found on two Daytona Beach murder victims years ago, and ended up linking Hayes to those murders as well.
- The Daytona Serial Killer: Police have long been searching for the Daytona Serial Killer (DSK), who shot three prostitutes in the head execution-style (including the two aforementioned victims that helped connect the Daytona Beach murders to the more recent Palm Beach murder) in 2005 and 2006.
- The first three victims: Laquetta Gunther, 45, was killed Christmas Eve 2005; her body was found December 26 of that year in a kneeling position in a narrow space between two buildings. Her friend, Julie Green, 34, was killed Jan. 14, 2006, and was found dead in a ditch near a construction site. Iwana Patton, 35, was found dead in a "desolate area" on Feb. 24, 2006. Police say that unlike the first two victims, she was not a regular prostitute, but may have turned to prostitution out of desperation. Police say the DNA match links Hayes to the murders of Gunther and Green, while ballistics links him to Patton's murder, WESH reports.
- Another possible victim: Stacey Gage, 30, was found shot dead in a wooded area in January 2008, though police believe she was killed in 2007, and police say her murder may be linked to the DSK. Police found no DNA on her remains, but said her killing was "eerily similar" to the three earlier ones. All four bodies were found in remote, wooded areas within a mile or two of one another, and all were shot with the same type of gun, WFTV reports.
- The gun: Police say Hayes, who was a criminal justice student at Daytona Beach's Bethune Cookman University when the Daytona Beach victims were killed, bought the type of gun used in the murders at a local gun shop; he was actually one of hundreds questioned at the time due to his possession of the same type of gun. It's not clear when Hayes, who had no previous criminal record other than traffic infractions, moved to Palm Beach, but by the time Gage's body was found, he was living there and had become a father.
- More charges: Hayes has not been charged in any of the Daytona Beach murders yet, "but we have linked him through forensic evidence to three of our murder victims," the city's police chief told reporters. Authorities say they plan to file charges in the 2005-06 killings. Police are still investigating whether Hayes can also be linked to Gage's murder, ClickOrlando reports.
(Read more serial killer