After 19-year-old Barbara Grams was raped and murdered while walking home from her job at a Florida mall in August 1983, police quickly arrested a local man named Robert DuBoise.
DuBoise, who was 18 at the time, was fingered to detectives by a local resident who told them he was “causing trouble” in the Tampa neighborhood. Under questioning by law enforcement, DuBoise agreed to have researchers take a tooth shape to compare with a bite mark on Grams’ cheek.
A forensic odontologist declared it a match, and based on the evidence of the bite marks — a field that has since been debunked as junk science — as well as testimony from a prison informant in exchange for their own plea, DuBoise was convicted and sentenced to prison. dead.
DuBoise swore he was innocent, but to no avail. He spent 37 years behind bars before TSWT evidence cleared him of any involvement. In August 2020, he walked out of prison, a free man. But that meant Grams’ real killer, or killers, were still there.
On Thursday afternoon, nearly 39 years to the day since Grams was murdered, Hillsborough County Attorney Andrew Warren, who had been hastily suspended that morning by Governor Ron DeSantis over a political altercation, announced that detectives had finally intervened on the actual suspects.
“For 37 years Barbara Grams’ family had a false closure based on a false story,” Warren said at a news conference.
Warren identified Grams’s actual alleged killers as Abron Scott, 57, and Amos Robinson, 59, who he says will “finally be judged for what they’ve done.” The two, who are both serving life sentences for another murder in Pinellas County, were charged Thursday with first-degree murder in Grams’s death.
They were linked to Grams’ murder after further analysis of TSWT evidence stored in a 1983 rape kit, according to Warren, and said the new tests yielded new clues that conclusively prove Scott and Robinson’s guilt.
DuBoise’s attorney, Susan Friedman, senior staff attorney at Innocence Project, told The Daily Beast on Friday that Warren’s 2018 decision to form a unit to focus on past cases was critical to the grotesque injustice that had been committed against her client. Friedman said she and her colleagues only learned in 2020 that there was even relevant biological evidence in the case, thanks to Warren.
“Mr. DuBoise’s conviction shows how tunnel vision, flawed forensics and informers in prisons all contribute to wrongful convictions,” Friedman said in an email. Mr. DuBoise and his continued incarceration for nearly four decades. Their mistakes also made the community less safe. A root cause analysis and assessment of the sentinel event are needed to understand why the system failed and how to fix it. We are We are grateful to the Attorney General’s Conviction Review Unit for their cooperation in this matter, and we continue to be impressed by Mr. DuBoise’s strength, courage and determination as he moves forward.”
Last year, DuBoise filed a lawsuit against the city of Tampa, the detectives he says tracked him down, and the forensic odontologist whose analysis landed him on death row.
At Thursday’s press conference, Warren also announced charges against Scott and Robinson for a second murder, thanks in part to modern TSWT testing and analysis. In that case, which took place five weeks before Grams was found dead, 41-year-old freelance photographer Linda Lansen was found shot to death at the end of a highway in the Town n’ Country area of Hillsborough.
Together, Warren said the two “perpetrated a sinister series of rapes and murders in Tampa Bay in the summer and fall of 1983,” noting that Scott and Robinson’s current convictions are for kidnapping, beating and killing a 33-year-old. year old man. shoe salesman Carlos Orellana, with his own car.
Warren said investigators now believe both men were also responsible for the October 1983 death of a woman named Herminia Castro, who was found shot to death in the trunk of an East Tampa car that had been set on fire. In 1991, Robinson and another man were charged with the murder of Castro, but the case was later dropped due to lack of evidence. While in prison, according to Warren, Robinson killed two of his fellow inmates.
At the end of Warren’s press conference, Linda Sheffield, Linda Lansen’s namesake and now adult cousin, spoke to the press. Lansen’s daughter chose not to appear, but gave Warren a thank you note to read.
“For me, the loss of my beautiful mother will remain a nightmare,” the statement said, pointing to the hard work of the researchers leading up to this moment. “But I thank them for at least bringing me some closure.”
In her own comments, Sheffield called Lansen a “very strong, determined, warm and wonderful woman” who taught her to count to 100 and put on makeup.
“It was the beginning of my life,” said an emotional Sheffield. “She was everything.”
Scott and Robinson not only ‘robbed’ her of her aunt, she said, ‘but they also robbed a 7-year-old girl from her mother… She kept asking, ‘Is that my mother’s car? Is that my mom’s car? Where is my mother?’ Because she couldn’t wrap her brain around what really happened.”
Words cannot describe what the past four decades have been like for Lansen’s friends and loved ones, Sheffield said.
“Thirty-nine years later, the shock is no longer there,” she said. “But the emptiness remains, and the pain remains, and the crying remains. It’s not going away.”
On Thursday, Warren said wrongful convictions serve no one’s interests, especially the victims and their families.
“As we see today, in the rare instance where an innocent person is convicted, the actual criminal got away with a crime… That stops now,” he said. “It is extremely rare for exemptions to be followed by the prosecution of the actual perpetrators. But… [w]We can now prosecute these men, and we will.”