What to Know
- A man arrested in Palm Beach is a suspected serial killer alleged to have killed at least 3 women near Daytona Beach, authorities said.
- Robert Tyrone Hayes, 37, was arrested Sunday in the March 7, 2016 killing of Rachel Bey, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials said.
A man arrested in a murder in Palm Beach County is a suspected serial killer alleged to have killed at least three women in the Daytona Beach area more than a decade ago, authorities said Monday.
Robert Tyrone Hayes, 37, was arrested Sunday in the March 7, 2016 killing of Rachel Bey, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials said. Hayes is also a suspect in the 2005-2006 killings of Laquetta Gunther, Julie Green and Iwana Patton in Volusia County, authorities said.
Authorities said Hayes could be linked to a 2008 murder in the Daytona Beach area. He has only been charged in the Palm Beach case.
"We have been able to take what we believe is a serial killer off the streets and had we not done this, we're pretty sure he would have killed again," Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said at a news conference Monday.
Hayes was arrested through DNA and genetic genealogy, officials said. Hayes was a student at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach during the earlier murders, and a resident of Palm Beach County when Bey was killed, authorities said. He graduated in 2006 with a degree in criminal justice, according to statement from the school.
Court records show Bey, 32, was a prostitute and her jaw and several teeth had been broken by her killer. She was last seen by a friend walking along a highway at about 2 a.m., court records show. Her nude body was found by a road crew six hours later. Investigators said in court documents she had been killed elsewhere and dumped. Detectives said Hayes' victims were chosen at random and investigators used a relative's DNA found on a popular online database to track him down. They said a cigarette butt collected surreptitiously last week after Hayes caught a bus and testing after his arrest show 700-billion-to-1 odds that the killer is someone other than Hayes, 100 times the world's population.
Hayes lived in an apartment complex on the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach. Neighbor Craig Brown said Hayes worked as a chef and lived with a woman and their daughter, who was about 2-years-old. He said he didn't know if Hayes and the woman were married. Brown said Hayes seemed like a normal, friendly person, and he was stunned by the news that he is a suspected serial killer.
"He was always friendly with me but until today I didn't know his name," Brown said.
Bey had been strangled, while the three Daytona Beach victims had been shot to death, authorities said.
The Daytona Beach killings caused such panic in 2006 that several prostitutes joined together to help with the investigation, memorizing vehicle descriptions and license plates, talking regularly with investigators and keeping a wary eye out for suspicious activity. For about a week, volunteers from a local ministry — including several homeless residents — distributed flyers and hygiene kits to those living and working on the street, urging people not to walk alone at night - a difficult task for prostitutes.
The first Daytona Beach body was discovered the day after Christmas 2005 when Gunther, 45, was found in a gap between an auto parts store and a mostly empty utility building. Green, 34, was found Jan. 14, 2006, on a dirt road at a construction site. The body of 35-year-old Patton was found Feb. 24 on a dirt road.
Police believe the victims willingly got into a car with the killer. Gunther had a police record for prostitution, but Green and Patton did not. Green had a record for drug possession. Patton had several arrests for battery.
Hayes was booked into jail where he was being held without bond Monday. Attorney information wasn't available.