[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
This case just keeps getting more disturbing…
In case you haven’t been following what’s going on in Tampa, a few fishermen found human body parts in McKay bay about three weeks back. Police quickly identified them thanks to a distinctive tattoo on the leg as belonging to missing Pennsylvania native Stephanie Crone-Overholts.
Her death was ruled a homicide — not just for the obvious reason that her chopped up body was dumped in the bay but also because the medical examiner was able to find the stab marks, including telltale evidence of defensive wounds.
All the evidence, including witnesses, surveillance footage, presence of blood — it’s a lot, more on that HERE — pointed to a Lutz resident named Robert Kessler. The 69-year-old claimed he and his 8-year-old daughter met Stephanie in a McDonald’s parking lot, where he noticed she was living out of her car. He told WFLA he offered her a place to stay for a few weeks, painting himself as a good Samaritan as well as an innocent bystander.
But holes in his story — and that mountain of evidence — led police to charge him with second-degree murder for the killing and abuse of a dead body for the dismemberment and disposal.
Kessler has been in trouble with the law many times, usually over drugs. And now he’s being charged with a horrifying murder. So we have to ask…
What’s happening with his daughter??
The little girl’s identity has not been revealed to the public to protect her, naturally, but we’re learning more about how she came to be in the care of such a man.
The 8-year-old — who is a witness in the murder case, having told police she saw her father and the victim arguing over money the night she disappeared — has been in the custody of Department of Children and Families since the arrest. Her maternal grandparents, Michael and Beth Gray, confirmed this to the Tampa Bay Times. They also revealed the fate of the girl’s mother — she died of an apparent accidental drug overdose just two months ago.
Apparently, somehow, Kessler had full custody of the little girl, and her mother, 34-year-old April Thompson, had only partial visitation rights. Her father said she’d also been in trouble with the law over drugs but had been determined to get her daughter back.
So much of this feels off. How does the girl’s mother lose custody to a man who has 22 previous drug and theft convictions? Per state records reviewed by Oxygen.com, the most recent of these convictions was in 2011, putting him behind bars until 2013 — barely in time to even have sired an 8-year-old daughter… with a drug-addicted woman half his age.
How did no other family member get custody?? Well, she apparently had been placed with her grandparents temporarily when she was even younger, after a domestic dispute between Kessler and Thompson.
Understandably, April’s family say they are now trying to get custody of the little girl. Her sister, Sarah Gray, told the Times:
“She needs family support, and just all the love she can get. That’s why we feel like we’re missing out even more.”
Sarah also spoke about Kessler to WFLA, accusing him of domestic violence against her sister:
“He has a history of battery on April and given how he could be easily irate and act out and threaten others, I would definitely label him a vicious person.”
She told the Times that during the time she was watching his daughter he would make harassing phone calls and send threatening social media messages to her. He even showed up to her work once. Michael Gray says Kessler once told Sarah he’d “cut her up like a hog.” Wow.
Strangely, they say, the youngster has never seemed afraid of her father and has “always gone to him.” But everyone else is terrified. Sarah said:
“I just don’t want my niece to go back to this individual, if he were to be free at any point. We just want her to be safe, and to come home and be with family.”
Yeah, we don’t blame them.
Kessler is currently being held without bond until his trial, per a judge’s ruling on Wednesday. He chose not to appear in court on his own behalf.
[Image via WFLA/YouTube.]