With true crime all the rage lets focus inward and realize that there’s some pretty famous unsolved crimes that went down here in Fort Myers and Naples. Now before you read on, these stories are real. And they include violent crimes and death. Some of the deceased are from Southwest Florida and may still have family in the area. For those, I am truly sorry for your loss and I’ll be as respectful as possible. Maybe these stories will help generate new leads in the unsolved cases. At the very least it can serve as a warning to those who think it’s all sunshine and beach time here in Florida.

For more true crime, we’ve also compiled a list of 10 Serial Killers Whose Crimes Were Committed In Florida. That list includes Aileen Wuornos who was famously portrayed by Charlize Theron in “Monster”, well, who could forget her?  Then there’s perhaps the most infamous of all, Ted Bundy, known for his massacres at Florida State University, among other crimes.

The first one, in Fort Myers, has recently popped back up in the news. The Naples unsolved crime was less than 5 years ago and is still fresh on many people’s minds. Let’s start with Fort Myers:

  • The ‘Fort Myers Eight’

    On March 23, 2007, a land surveyor in an area of melaleuca trees off Arcadia Street in Fort Myers found the first of what would be eight sets of human remains. The area, just south of MLK was described as a “serial murderer graveyard.” Kiro7 reports “Authorities believe alleged serial killer Daniel Owen Conahan Jr. is responsible for the deaths of Soden and the other seven men, as well as several murders in Charlotte County known as the “Hog Trail murders.”

    The eight victims bodies were found near each other and were not buried. There were no signs of trauma, or bullet holes. There were also no clothing or belts, which made identification much more difficult. Investigators estimated the killings happened between 1985 and 2000 as the bodies had decomposed to basically just bones.

    Four of the victims have been identified. Robert Ronald “Bobbie” Soden, identified only recently, in September of 2022. He had been missing since 1996, was 30 when friends and family last heard from him. Eric Kohler of Port Charlotte was living with his grandparents when he vanished in 1995 at the age of 21. 26 year old John Blevins of Fort Myers also vanished in 1995 but was never reported missing. Jonathan Tihay, aged 24, was last seen alive in October 1995 but was also never reported missing.

     

  • Two Men Disappeared After Being Arrested By A Collier County Sheriff's Corporal

    Collier County Sheriff’s Corporal Steven Calkins arrested Felipe Santos in October 2003 and Terrance Williams in January 2004. Felipe Santos was involved in a minor crash in North Naples while on his way to work.  Corporal Calkins arrested Santos on suspicion of driving without a license. But rather then book Santos, he said he dropped the man off at a nearby Circle K. Three months later, Calkins pulled Terrence Williams over by a North Naples cemetery. Williams was suspected of driving with an expired license. Calkins told investigators he also dropped Williams off at a Circle K instead of arresting him.

    If this case sounds familiar, it made national headlines when Tyler Perry put up a $200,000 reward for information that leads to finding the two missing men. Perry has also produced a television show, Never Seen Again, on Paramount Plus, that includes this story.

    Calkins was fired after he became uncooperative and gave conflicting statements, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  Steven Calkins was never arrested or charged in the disappearances.

  • Keith Jones

     Keith Jones was a former U.S. Marine and recent graduate of the Law Enforcement Academy. In 1997, the owner of the former Tides Motel in downtown Fort Myers found him with a gunshot to his head. Despite an investigation, the case remained unsolved for nearly 20 years. However, in 2019, a witness came forward, leading to the arrest of Cape Coral mother, Michelle Ashley, on charges of first-degree premeditated murder. Ashley’s trial lasted four days, ultimately finding her not guilty. Her exoneration led to Jones’ death being one of the oldest unsolved cases in the city.

     

  • The Tallahassee Sims Family Murders

    While 15-year-old Judith Ann Sims was babysitting, and Norma Jeanette, 17, was at the Florida State game, the rest of their family was murdered. On October 22nd, 1966, when Norma returned home she found her father, Dr. Robert Sims, lying on the bed. He had been shot once in the head but was still alive. Mother Helen had been shot in the head and the leg. She too was also alive for the time being. 12 year old Joy Lynn Sims was already dead. She had been shot in the head and stabbed more than 6 times in her stomach. Robert died before the ambulance arrived. Helen slipped into a coma and died 9 days later. She never regained consciousness to reveal any information.   

    Investigators suspected  C. A. Roberts, but he had an alibi. He was at the football game. Norma and Judith Sims have never spoken publicly about the murder of their family.

  • Zachary Bernhardt Disappeared From His Home In Clearwater

    According to Fox 13, “Zachary was reported missing just before 5 a.m. on September 11, 2000. He was living at the Savannah Trace Apartments in Clearwater with his mother Leah Hackett, who told police she went for a walk and a swim in the middle of the night and when she came back he was gone.” Hundreds of people joined in to search the area but found nothing. 

    A year later, a Polaroid photograph of a young boy was found in a parking lot. The picture appeared to show Zachary tied up and gagged. Authorities could not obtain positive identification of the photograph.

  • Caylee Anthony

    On December 11, 2008, two-year-old Caylee Anthony’s skeletal remains were found inside a laundry bag in a wooded area near the Anthony family’s house in Orlando. Duct tape was found on her skull.  The medical examiner mentioned duct tape as one reason she determined the death was a homicide, while the cause of death was listed as “death by undetermined means”. When questioned, Casey Anthony said her daughter had been kidnapped by her nanny. 

    Despite 400 pieces of evidence, On July 5, 2011, the jury found Casey not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and aggravated child abuse. 

    true crime

    ORLANDO, FL – JULY 07: Casey Anthony smiles before the start of her sentencing hearing on charges of lying to a law enforcement officer at the Orange County Courthouse July 7, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Anthony was acquitted of murder charges on July 5, 2011 but will serve four, one-year sentences on her conviction of lying to a law enforcement officer. She will be credited for the nearly three-years of time served and good behavior and will be released July 13. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Body in the Bay

    Pat Mullins was a Palmetto High School Librarian in Manatee County. He was also an experienced boater. He went missing after a boat ride in January 2013. During a search, his boat was found in the Manatee River. Several days later, Pat was found dead with an anchor tied to his waist. He also had a gunshot wound to the head. Was it murder, or suicide? There are no leads.

     

  • Scarface Actress Vanishes in Cocoa Beach

    On July 6, 1983, 18-year-old Tammy Lynn Leppert, fresh off a part in the movie Scarface, left her home and traveled with an unidentified male friend in his vehicle. After Tammy’s disappearance the friend said that they got in an argument and he left her in the parking lot of a gas station. There were two noted suspects. Christopher Bernard Wilder was a serial killer linked by the FBI to the murders of 12 women from Florida to California. Wilder died in a shootout with police in 1984. The second,  John Crutchley, a convicted kidnapper and rapist who was suspected of killing as many as 30 women. He committed suicide in prison in 2002. What happened to Tammy is not known. 

     

  • Jennifer Odom Was Murdered On Her Way Home From School

    12-year-old Jennifer Odom never arrived home from school on February 19, 1993. She got off the school bus that day and started her 200 yard walk to her home in Dade City. Kids on the bus said they saw a blue pickup truck follow her. 

    During the next several days, law enforcement equipped with police dogs and hundreds of volunteers scoured 60 square miles of rolling groves, pastures and woods surrounding the tiny Pasco town of Dade City. On Thursday, February 25, 1993, a man and woman searching an abandoned orange grove in southeast Hernando County, FL, found Jennifer. Jennifer’s clothing, including the red sweater and Hooter’s jacket, have not been found.

    Approximately two years later on Thursday, January 5, 1995, a couple hunting for scrap metal in a rural area of Hernando County discovered Jennifer’s missing book bag and clarinet case. The bag and case were found in Western Hernando County. The suspect vehicle is a full size, older unknown model pick-up truck, blue in color.

    Jennifer Renee Odom

  • 5 Month Old Sabrina Aisenberg Was Kidnapped

    Sabrina Aisenberg vanished from her crib in Valrico, Florida, on November 24, 1997. She was just five months old. In a statement, her mother last checked on her around midnight. In the morning, the baby and her blanket were gone. Suspicion turned to the Aisenbergs as questions arose as to why they were not awakened by an intruder and why their dog did not bark. Their press conference was also a bit odd.

    Fox13news states ” According to court documents, 16 days after Sabrina disappeared, law enforcement officers got permission to wiretap the couple’s home and secretly monitor and record the couple’s conversations – in their home and over the phone.  The documents stated that detectives believed there was probable cause to show that the Aisenbergs murdered their daughter.”

    Despite what the prosecution saw as overwhelming evidence, a judge stated that the wiretaps were largely unintelligible and that the statements were misquoted or taken out of context.  Also, that the audio on the tapes did not match the transcripts. 

    The couple was never charged with harming their daughter.

    After the the charges were dropped, a reward settlement of $2.9 million was issued from the prosecutors to the Aisenbergs for court costs.

    Since the investigators were primarily focused on family members, no other leads were followed and the case has gone cold.

    The transcript of the wiretaps and more can be found here.