Tampa prosecutors seek death penalty in 1983 murders

TAMPA — Hillsborough prosecutors will seek the death penalty against two men accused in a pair of 1983 murders, one of which resulted in another man’s wrongful conviction and imprisonment for 37 years.

The office of acting Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez late last month filed written notices of intent to seek capital punishment for Amos Robinson and Abron Scott. They were charged in August with the slayings of Linda Lansen and Barbara Grams, who were both killed in the summer of 1983.

The new charges came two years after the office’s conviction review unit, created by former State Attorney Andrew Warren, determined that Robert DuBoise had been wrongfully convicted for Grams’ murder. Indictments against Robinson and Scott came the same day that Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Warren from office and appointed Lopez to replace him.

DuBoise’s exoneration prompted a renewed investigation that identified the pair as suspects. Both are already serving life sentences in Florida prisons for a Pinellas County murder that occurred the same year.

Grams, 19, was attacked as she walked home late one night that August from her job at a Tampa shopping mall. She was found beaten to death behind a dentist office on N Boulevard.

Investigators identified a wound on her cheek as a bite mark. A forensic dentist, Richard Souviron, later opined that the mark was consistent with a model of DuBoise’s teeth. Bite mark analysis in recent years has come to be largely discredited.

A 2020 review of DuBoise’s case revealed DNA samples from a rape kit taken from Grams.

The DNA did not match DuBoise. It did match Robinson and Scott, prosecutors said.

Both men were convicted in the 1980s for the murder of Carlos Orellana. He was attacked and beaten as he left a bar on W Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa one night in October 1983. He was forced into his car, then driven to an isolated area of Oldsmar, where he was run over.

Robinson and Scott were sentenced to death in that case. But their sentences were later reduced to life.

The renewed investigation also linked them to the slaying of Lansen. The 41-year-old freelance photographer was last seen leaving her apartment near Sligh Avenue and Rowlett Park Drive the night of July 10, 1983. She was found the next morning by a Town ‘N Country road. She had been shot to death. Her murder remained unsolved for nearly four decades.

The cases are the third time Lopez has authorized pursuit of the death penalty since taking office two months ago.

On her second day in office, she reversed a decision by Warren to not seek death against Matthew Terry, who awaits trial for the fatal stabbing of his former girlfriend, elementary school teacher Kay Baker, in Ruskin. Lopez later authorized pursuit of the death penalty against Ronny Tremel Walker, who is accused in the May shooting of 14-year-old Nilexia Alexander.

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