‘Serial killers’ identified in 40-year unsolved Tampa murders

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A nearly 40-year-old unsolved rape and murder of Tampa woman Linda Lansen is a cold case no more, and it turns out the men responsible were also behind three other slayings in the area, including one for which a man was wrongly imprisoned for decades.

On Thursday afternoon, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren announced his office has conclusive DNA evidence linking two already imprisoned Florida men, Amos Robinson and Abron Scott, to Lansen’s August 1983 murders.

Their DNA also is a match for genetic materials found on Barbara Grams, whose rape and murder occurred in the Tampa Bay area just over a month later. An innocent man, Robert DuBoise, sat wrongly convicted in prison for 37 years for killing Grams until August 2020 after tests of a long-shelved but preserved rape kit proved him innocent. He’s seeking $1.85 million in compensation from the state.

Florida Politics reached out to DuBoise for comment but received none by publication time.

Warren confirmed prosecutors have received grand jury indictments charging Robinson and Scott for both crimes.

“We can now prosecute these men, and we will,” he told reporters, crediting the efforts of law enforcement personnel and those working in his office’s Conviction Review Unit.

“It’s been a massive undertaking.”

Robinson and Scott are both serving life sentences for other killings committed within four months of Lansen and Grams’ murders.

The two men were arrested and convicted for the October 1983 murder of Carlos Orellana, whom they kidnapped, robbed, beat and ran over with a car in Oldsmar. Both received death sentences, but the Florida Supreme Court later resentenced them to life in prison.

Robinson and his brother were charged with another killing, the September 1983 beating death of Hermenia Castro, but the case never went to trial due to a lack of evidence.

Lansen was 41 at the time of her murder. Grams was 19, Castro was 55 and Orellana was 33.

Image via the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.

Since his incarceration, Robinson has also killed two of his fellow inmates. He’s now serving three life sentences for first- and second-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery.

Scott is serving one life sentence for first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and burglary.

“We’ve now connected Amos Robinson to four murders in the span of 103 days in Tampa in 1983 and Abron Scott to three murders,” Warren said. “These men are serial murderers and rapists, and although they’re already serving a life sentence, their crimes against Barbara Grams and Linda Lansen cannot and will not go unpunished.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies — including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office — cooperated in the more than two-year effort to carry the unsolved cases forward.

After eliminating DuBoise as a possible suspect in Grams’ murder and matching Robinson and Scott’s DNA to the crime, detectives gathered evidence and built cases against them that prosecutors could take to court.

At the same time, the Conviction Review Unit within the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, created in 2018 under Warren, began to examine other unsolved murders in the Tampa Bay area from the same time.

Assistant State Attorney Teresa Hall, who supervises the unit, contacted the HCSO in 2021 about the Lansen killing, a cold case detectives had reopened twice over the decades but for which no viable suspects were ever found.

Linda Sheffield, Lansen’s niece, close friend and roommate, said she’d all but given up hope that those responsible for devastating her family would be brought to justice. She described Lansen, after whom she was named, as a “warm and wonderful” role model who left behind a 7-year-old daughter.

“There are no words to describe what it is to go through 39 years of grief and not knowing,” she said. “At some point we stop and forget about the criminals and realize the void that is there for someone who helped you for so long …. It’s no longer about closure because it’s no longer about them; it’s still about the loss, really — I miss her very much, every day.”

Of Florida’s 20 State Attorney’s Offices, only six have Conviction Review Units, and there are fewer than 100 such operations across the country, according to a spokesperson for Warren’s office.

That should change, Sheffield said.

“We need this,” she said. “We need it here, but we also need it all over the state.”

Warren held the press conference just hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended and replaced him with County Judge Susan Lopez. The Governor cited Warren’s refusal to enforce bans on abortion and gender-affirming surgery. Most recently, Warren pledged he would not enforce Florida’s new law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Asked to comment on the issue, Warren, who was elected in 2016 and re-elected four years later, argued DeSantis is “trying to overthrow the results of a free and fair election” by removing him from elected office.

He added he has yet to review a case in which the 15-week abortion ban is relevant.

“The Governor wants to do his sideshow with his cronies. I’m the one who’s upholding the law,” he said. “Just based on the Governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders, I have a feeling that this is going to be just as unconstitutional.”

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