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Prosecutors seek death penalty for accused Florida serial killer

Prosecutors seek death penalty for accused Florida serial killer
Prosecutors in Florida have announced they will seek the death penalty against a man who they say preyed on prostitutes, causing panic in the Daytona Beach area over a series of killings more than a dozen years ago.
Prosecutors charged Robert Hayes, 37, with three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of three women in that area between 2005 and 2006.
Robert Hayes, 37, was arrested Sunday without incident. A Palm Beach County judge ordered him held without bail Monday on a first-degree murder charge, pending a grand jury proceeding. (AP)
All of the women were found nude, lying face down.
The shootings caused such a panic at the time in the beachfront community that several prostitutes joined together to help investigators, memorising vehicle descriptions and license plates.
Laquetta Gunther, 45, was found dead in a gap between an auto parts store and a mostly empty utility building, the day after Christmas 2005.
The following month, Julie Green, 34, was found slain on a dirt road at a construction site.
The body of 35-year-old Iwana Patton was found a month later on another dirt road.
At the time, Hayes was a student at the city's Bethune-Cookman University, where he graduated with a degree in criminal justice.
Hayes had a security guard license.
He was questioned then as a possible suspect in the Daytona Beach killings based on a gun purchase similar to one used by the killer, but he wasn't arrested.
Genetic genealogy has led Florida investigators to a suspect in a 2016 killing who they believe is responsible for at least three other slayings. (AP)
Hayes already was facing a separate murder charge after his arrest last September in Palm Beach County, where he has been jailed. Authorities said DNA linked victim Rachel Bey's 2016 death to the Daytona Beach killings.
The DNA profile was run through a genetic database used by people trying to find long-lost relatives and, authorities said, a link to Hayes was established.
There were no online records for Hayes in Volusia County, so it was unknown if he had an attorney.
Beachgoers play in high surf next to the Main Street Pier in Daytona Beach, Florida. (AAP)
A cigarette butt proved the tipping point
Authorities said they got a major break in the case using genetic genealogy, which is a combination of traditional DNA evidence with the type of genealogical analysis made famous by companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.
It was the DNA of one of Hayes' relatives, found in a genetic geneaology database, that led investigators to Hayes, said Lori Napolitano, chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's genetic genealogy investigations.
She did not provide other details, except to say that the more DNA two people share, the more closely they are related.
A cigarette butt led to the arrest of Robert Hayes. (AP)
Following the death of Bey, whose battered body was discovered by road crews along State Route 710, police obtained DNA from a sexual assault kit and put it into a law enforcement database, where they got hits on the three Daytona Beach murders, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Capt Mike Wallace said.
How genetic geneaology is helping police solve cold cases
On Friday, investigators following Hayes obtained his DNA from a cigarette butt he discarded at a bus stop, according to the probable cause affidavit.
The DNA from Bey's sexual assault kit was a better match for Bey and Hayes than it was for Bey and any other person on the planet, Capt Wallace said.
"So we have our guy," he said.
Though authorities believe Hayes selected his victims at random, he had met Bey earlier on the evening of March 7, 2016, the day she was killed, Capt Wallace said.
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