Ivelisse Berrios-Beguerisse has been dead longer than she had been alive. Her murder finally was solved 23 years after she left work at Sawgrass Mills and never came home, Coral Springs Police announced Monday.
The 20-year-old Davie woman's naked body was found Nov. 27, 1990, in the 200 block of Northwest 122nd Avenue in Coral Springs' quiet West Glen neighborhood. The Broward Medical Examiner determined she had died of asphyxia.
Oba Chandler, executed in 2011 for a triple murder, was the killer, according to cold-case detectives Brian Koenig and Dan Cucchi.
In 1990, investigators had gathered and processed DNA samples without much success because the technology was less sophisticated and there was no database of criminals' DNA with which to compare it, Cucchi said.
"Mr. Chandler, when he was convicted in 1994, that's when his DNA profile would have been entered into the national database, so it was in there in that time period," Cucchi said. "It's just that we didn't have a profile from our victim's rape kit at that time."
Chandler, 65, was convicted in the rape, strangulation and killing of Joan Rogers, 36, and her daughters Michelle, 17, and Christe, 14, in St. Petersburg in 1989. Twenty-two years later, he was executed by lethal injection.
Berrios-Beguerisse had been working at Swim and Sport in Sawgrass Mills for less than a month when she disappeared after her shift on Nov. 26, 1990. Chandler lived in Sunrise, about a mile from the mall, police said.
She left the mall through the White Seahorse exit just after 10 p.m. with several co-workers who split up as they went to their cars. That was the last time she was seen alive.
Her husband of nine months, Bernardo Beguerisse, went to the mall and found her 1985 Ford Tempo with two slashed tires on the passenger side. He called police.
Nearly three hours later, around 1 a.m., her body was found with ligature marks on both wrists and ankles and brown packing tape stuck in her hair, Cucchi said.
"Back in 1990, rape kits and the DNA collection process were not the same but now it's way more advanced," Cucchi said. "You can actually take a smaller sample and through the new technology they can develop potential profiles and suspect DNA, where in the past they could not."
In August, Koenig and Cucchi were assigned the cold case and began meticulously reviewing the evidence. They asked the Broward Sheriff's Office Crime Lab to have the DNA tested again, Koenig said.
"They said, 'Go for it. Send it to us again. We'll run it again,'" he said. "Thanks to their efforts they were able to pull it out."
On Feb. 5, detectives received word that Chandler was a match.
"Sometimes [the DNA sample] can be too degraded and there are other factors that come into play," Koenig said. "In this particular case we got lucky and they were able to obtain a full profile."
If Chandler were alive today, he would be charged with the strangulation death of Ivelisse Berrios-Beguerisse, police said.
Her husband now lives in Mexico. Her sister Rebecca Berrios, 36, and parents live in Puerto Rico.
"They've got mixed emotions," Koenig said. "Obviously they're grateful for having some kind of closure and knowing more about what happened, but at the same time just to have to revisit it again 23 years later was obviously rough on them."
"The news caught them by surprise, too," Cucchi added. "They asked for more information on Mr. Chandler, which we provided them, in particular [about] the triple killings up in St. Petersburg. They were not aware of this guy at the time so they wanted to learn everything they could about him."
In the 1989 case, Rogers and her daughters were returning home to Ohio after a trip to Disney World when they crossed paths with Chandler.
They met him in Tampa, where they had stopped to ask directions while searching for their motel. Chandler gave them directions to a Days Inn, then offered to take them on a sunset cruise on his boat that evening on Tampa Bay, according to trial records.
They were never seen alive again. Their bodies — bound, gagged and naked below the waist — were found floating in Tampa Bay three days later.
It took investigators three years to solve the case. Local officials posted billboards in the Tampa Bay area showing Chandler's distinctive handwriting, found scribbled on a tourist brochure in Rogers' car. That led to Chandler's arrest in 1992.
At trial, prosecutors said Chandler had lured the trio to his boat, raped them and dumped them into the bay with concrete blocks tied around their necks. Chandler testified that he had given Rogers directions, but said he was out fishing alone the night of the killings.
A Canadian tourist testified that she had been raped by Chandler, an aluminum contractor, under similar circumstances a few weeks before the murders.
Koenig and Cucchi indicated they are examining other cold cases, including that of Terry Ann Gilchrist, 35, of Pompano Beach, found strangled in a field off Coral Ridge Drive north of Wiles Road on May 20, 1990.
"I can't really get into what we've done and what we haven't done because that case is still open, but the cases are similar," Koenig said.
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this story.
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