Florida Man Arrested On Murder Charges; Found To Be Notorious Daytona Serial Killer

Photo: Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
Who Is Robert Hayes? New Details On The Arrest of Florida Man Suspected Of Being Daytona Serial Killer

Police have made an arrest in the 2016 murder of a woman in Palm Beach County, Florida. Robert Hayes has been charged with the murder of Rachel Bey and he may face more charges as well. Authorities think he is a serial killer who murdered at least three other women in 2005 and 2008. He may also be implicated in a fifth murder from 2008.

Hayes was tied to all the murders through DNA evidence and police say that technique was instrumental in solving these cases. Hayes is now being held without bond. Who is Robert Hayes? Read on for all the details. 

1. String of murders

In 2006, three women all turned up murdered in Daytona Beach, Florida. Laquetta Gunther, Julie Green and Iwana Patton — all sex workers — were shot, stripped naked and dumped in remote areas between 2005 and 2006. The AP reports that street people at the time were terrified of the unknown killer ravaging the area, offering to help police and doing their best to keep an eye out for a culprit. Then suddenly the killings stopped. It was 10 years later when another sex worker in another Florida county was killed that police were able to connect that murder with the earlier killings — and with a likely suspect: Robert Hayes. 

2. Barely evading arrest

Police had come close to apprehending Hayes after the 2005 and 2006 deaths, the Washington Post reported. Cops questioned him then after learning he had bought a gun similar to one that killed Julie Green, Iwana Patton and Laquetta Gunther. However, they were not able to definitively link him to the murders then and a case against him never moved forward. At the time, Hayes was a criminal justice major at Bethune-Cookman University and he would eventually go on to graduate in 2006 and leave the area. 

3. Arrested years later

The AP reports that Hayes was arrested Sunday at his apartment in West Palm Beach. The arrest occurred without incident. Neighbors said Hayes is a chef and lived with a woman and their daughter, who is about 2. They expressed shock that he was suspected of multiple murders. “He was always friendly with me,” one neighbor told reporters. 

A law enforcement press conference about the arrest.

4. A new case, a new technology

It wasn't until 2016 that police were able to revisit the idea of Hayes as a suspect. Rachel Bey was found dead on the morning of March 7, 2016 and, like the other women, was found naked and dumped in a remote area. Additionally, all the women were sex workers. Bey had been strangled while the others had been shot but the similarities were notable. As part of the investigation, police performed an autopsy and rape kit. The evidence from those examinations of her body yielded enough DNA to test in an attempt to see if the genetic material was a match for anyone in an existing DNA database. 

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5. Genetic genealogy solves the case

One of the tools authorities used to link Hayes to the murders was so-called genetic genealogy, according to the Washington Post.  With these tactics, police match DNA from crime scenes to entries in online DNA databases. These are the same genealogy resources that people use when they're trying to use a DNA kit to find out more about themselves and their family background. The technique has been successful in recent years, including in the high profile case of the Golden State Killer. The murderer eluded detection for decades until DNA evidence was used to find him. 

Hayes' DNA was confirmed via database and from a sample taken from a cigarette he discarded after questioning. 

Police believe he is a serial killer.

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6. DNA proves the link between crimes

In the case of Hayes, the DNA used to tie him to the murder of Rachel Bey has also matched with fluid found on the bodies of LaQuetta Gunther, Julie Ann Green and Iwana Patton, all of whom were murdered in Daytona Beach in 2005 and 2006. “At this point in time, we have not charged him yet...but we have linked him with forensic evidence to three of our murder victims,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri said Monday, according to the Daily Beast.

“Without genetic genealogy, predators like Mr. Hayes will continue to live in our neighborhoods, visit our parks, our libraries, restaurants and go to our nightlife entertainment districts to continue to hunt for victims,” said Troy Walker, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

7. Another possible case

The Daily Beast reports that police suspect Hayes may also be responsible for the murder of  Stacey Gage, who was found fatally shot in 2008. Authorities don't have forensic evidence tying him to the slaying. "We don’t know at this point in time if it’s related. We’re still investigating that,” Capri said. 

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8. We've taken a serial killer off the streets.

“We believe we took a serial killer off the streets. We’re going to be looking for additional victims,” Palm Beach sheriff’s Captain Michael Wallace told a news conference Monday. At the same press conference, Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said: “If we hadn’t put this individual in jail, he would’ve done this again and we would have had another victim.” 

Hayes is being held without bond and is being represented by a public defender. The PD's office has not commented on the case. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.