The trial has begun for a Florida man believed to be the serial killer of four prostitutes.
Prosecutors told jurors that DNA links Robert Hayes to the shooting deaths of three women 16 years ago when he was a criminal justice student at a local university.
Prosecutors in Daytona Beach said during opening statements that DNA taken from Hayes matches material found on the bodies of two of the three women, who were found shot to death by the same gun between December 2005 and February 2006. Hayes, 39, is also facing trial later for allegedly strangling a fourth woman in Palm Beach County in 2016.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, prosecutor Jason Lewis told jurors that Hayes was responsible for “killing not once, not twice, but three times here in Volusia County.”
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Francis Shea, Hayes’ lead attorney, told the jurors that they would learn how long DNA lasts on a person and how tire tracks at one of the scenes led them to a junkyard but did not explain how those are tied to the case.
The investigation into the deaths of Laquetta Gunther, 45, Julie Green, 35, and Iwana Patton, 35, was rekindled in 2016 after DNA found on the body of Rachel Bey, 32, near West Palm Beach linked their cases. All had worked as prostitutes.
At the time of the Daytona Beach killings, Hayes was a student at the city’s Bethune-Cookman University. Hayes was one of several men questioned in 2006 as a possible suspect based on a gun purchase similar to the one used by the killer, but he told police he had given the gun to his mother, and he wasn’t arrested. His mother later told detectives he never gave her a gun.
At the time of Bey’s death, Hayes was working as a chef in Palm Beach County.
Investigators said in 2019; they ran DNA found on the victims through a genetic database used by people trying to find long-lost relatives and determined the killer was related to a woman with three half-brothers, one of them Hayes.
Detectives testifying on the first day of Hayes’s trial told the jury they then put Hayes under surveillance and secretly confiscated a beer can and cigarette butt he discarded, and, prosecutors say, the DNA from those items matched the killer’s. He was arrested.