DNA links two men in prison to cold case from 1983 that originally sent the wrong man to prison for 37 years
By Alisha Ebrahimji and Amy Simonson, CNN
Two men serving life sentences for murder in a Florida prison have been linked to two other murders with the help of newly discovered DNA samples, which led to the exoneration of another man who wrongfully served 37 years in prison for the rape and murder of Barbara Grams in 1983.
Amos Robinson and Abron Scott allegedly raped and murdered 19-year-old Grams, whose beaten body was found behind a dental office in Tampa Heights on August 18, 1983, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said during a news conference Thursday after he was suspended as the state attorney by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his stance against criminalizing abortion providers.
A grand jury indicted Robinson and Scott Thursday for the rape and murder of Linda Lansen, whose beaten body was found in Town and Country in July 1983 in bushes with a gunshot wound to the head, Warren said.
"These two men not only robbed me, but they robbed a 7-year-old little girl of her mother," said Linda Sheffield, Lansen's niece, during Thursday's news conference.
"When they're initially murdered, the shock is there, but 39 years later the shock is no longer there," she said. "But the void stays, and the pain stays and the crying stays. It doesn't go away."
Robinson and Scott are also subjects of other cold case investigations from the same time period in the Tampa Bay area, Warren said.
"We now know that these two men carried out a sinister spree of rape and murder in Tampa Bay in the summer and fall of 1983," Warren said.
It is unclear if Robinson and Scott have attorneys at this time.
DNA evidence leads to exoneration and new conviction
In 2018, Warren's office created a Conviction Review Unit to help overturn and prevent wrongful convictions. Two years later, Robert DuBoise, who spent 37 years in prison for Grams' rape and murder, was exonerated.
"Our investigation found DNA evidence that established Robert did not murder Barbara Grams; however, that DNA evidence did provide new leads and launched a fresh investigation," Warren said.
The DNA sample that did not contain material from DuBoise was run through a national database containing DNA samples of convicted felons and led investigators to Scott and Robinson, who were already serving life sentences in a Florida prison for a murder they committed in Pinellas County in October of 1983, Warren said.
With that information, investigators were able to build a case for Grams' murder and open a cold case investigation into Lansen's murder.
At the time of DuBoise's trial, there wasn't any physical or circumstantial evidence connecting DuBoise to the attack, according to The Florida Innocence Project.
Before his conviction, he was transported to Hillsborough County Jail. A jailhouse informant who spoke with DuBoise later testified falsely that DuBoise had confessed to the crime during his jail stay, The Florida Innocence Project said.
"I am sad for the families who have waited so long to get true closure," DuBoise told CNN Friday. "I spent 37 years imprisoned for a crime I was totally innocent. This is what happens when the police focus on the wrong person, make up evidence to fit their theory and don't investigate to find the truth. Lives are ruined and communities are less safe."
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