Published Nov. 27 by the Tampa Tribune
TAMPA –Valerie Troxell has no idea what happened to her father’s body after he was executed by the state of Florida.
“I’d at least like to know where he’s buried,” she said of Oba Chandler, the triple murderer who was put to death by lethal injection on Nov. 15 at Florida State Prison outside Starke. “Just to be able to say a final goodbye.”
After an autopsy, Chandler’s body was claimed by his son, Jeff Chandler, who lives in Pasco County, according to the Department of Corrections. Prison officials also gave Jeff Chandler family photographs that Oba Chandler had in his cell on death row.
Chandler was executed for the June 1989 murders of Joan Rogers and her two teenage daughters, whose bodies were found in Tampa Bay while they were on their first family vacation from their Ohio farm. The three were found naked from the waist down, their hands and ankles tied and a concrete block tied around their necks.
The former Tampa man maintained his innocence until the day he died, even writing a note to prison officials that they were killing an innocent man.
Troxell, who never had a relationship with her father and has only vague memories of spending time with him at an amusement park once, still believes in him.
“I believe they did execute an innocent man. I don’t think one person could have pulled off such a heinous crime,” she said by telephone from her home outside Cincinnati. “It would have to have been more than one person. I believe the killers are still out there.
“The forensic evidence was not there. The palm print would prove he did meet them and gave them directions, but it didn’t mean he killed them,” Troxell added. “I think the prosecution had a very weak case.”
Chandler’s palm print on a Clearwater Beach brochure and his handwritten directions on that item were integral in the state’s case to convict Chandler. Prosecutors told the jury that Chandler came across the Rogers’ trio when they were trying to find their hotel on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, then lured them onto a sunset cruise where he killed them.
Troxell said she fought to keep Chandler alive as the end neared for her father.
“I did everything I could to stay his execution and I got no response,” she said. “I called the governor’s office and he declined to take my phone call. That angered me. He was making such a big decision and wouldn’t even give me the courtesy of answering my phone call.”
Since the execution, the daughter said, life for her has not been easy.
“It’s been horrible,” she said. “I haven’t been able to sleep well, I’ve been anxious. Everything is finalized.”
Chandler never had a single visitor, other than his attorney, in all his years on death row. The only person to witness the execution on his behalf was Baya Harrison, the lawyer who fought for his life in various death appeals over the years.
“The poor guy had nobody there for him,” Harrison said. “I was not about to leave him there alone.”
While Harrison had said before that Chandler was resigned to his fate and was tired of living in a cramped cell, Troxell was not so sure.
“I don’t think anyone wants to die. I don’t think it was his wish to be put to death,” she said. “I’m sure he was tired of living that existence.
“He probably felt alienated from everyone,” Troxell added. “That in itself is inhumane, to keep someone in a cell 23 hours a day and not allow them to socialize. I think I would go crazy.”
The daughter said while she feels pain for the loss of her father, she also worries about the suffering of Hal Rogers, who attended her father’s execution.
“I can’t imagine what life is like without his wife and two daughters,” she said. “I pray for him every day. I can’t imagine what kind of pain that must cause him.
“But I believe that Obie’s innocent. He did a lot of things in his life that I am not proud of as his daughter,” Troxell added. “He has a lengthy criminal record. But murder? No, I don’t believe it.”
The daughter said she was surprised that Chandler didn’t have anything to say when afforded the opportunity for a final statement before the flow of lethal chemicals began invading his body.
“I’m really surprised he didn’t tell them to kiss his behind,” she said. “I probably would have.”