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The event was originally planned for 3 p.m., but was temporarily delayed after Warren was suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning. Warren provided a “major development” to an unsolved murder following the exoneration in 2020 of wrongfully-convicted Tampa man Robert DuBoise.
Initially, Warren very briefly acknowledged the governor’s executive action this morning, calling it “theater,” but said he was there, focused on the cold case update.
“In 2018, my office created a conviction review unit to find and fix wrongful convictions,” Warren said. “Two years ago, that unit exonerated Robert DuBoise. He’d spent 37 years in prison for a rape and murder that he did not commit. Our investigation found DNA evidence that established Robert did not murder Barbara Grams. That DNA evidence did provide new leads, and launched a fresh investigation.”
DuBoise was convicted and incarcerated at age 18, initially with a death sentence, after 19-year-old Barbara Grams was found dead, a victim of rape and murder. The 13th State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit alongside the Florida Innocence Project helped DuBoise walk free in 2020, using DNA evidence that proved his innocence.
Warren said the DNA evidence led them to two men, who “actually murdered Barbara Grams 39 years ago.” He said both men had also raped and murdered another woman in Tampa in 1983, and that crime had gone unsolved as well. The other woman’s name was Linda Lansen.
“These men are subjects in other cold case investigations from the same time period in the Tampa Bay area,” Warren said.
Before detailing the identities of the two other suspects, Warren highlighted the work of the Conviction Review Unit, which he said reviews plausible claims of innocence and “safeguards” against wrongful convictions. It is one of few in the whole United States.
“In the rare case where an innocent person is convicted, it means the actual criminal got away with a crime,” Warren said. “But for these victims, that stops now. It’s extremely rare for exonerations to be followed by the prosecution of the actual perpetrators.”
Warren said that earlier on Thursday, a Hillsborough County grand jury had delivered indictments on the two men accused of the rapes and murders of Barbara Grams and Linda Lansen.
“Law enforcement detectives have been critical in the two year effort to get us here today,” Warren said. “These detectives carried these investigations forward, from Tampa police to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. And we share one belief, we put in all of this work, this is why we’re here today. To show Barbara and Linda are not forgotten. They deserve justice, their families deserve justice, and our community deserves it.”
Warren said the Grams evidence did not contain any material from DuBoise. He said the genetic evidence contained evidence from two other men. The evidence, according to Warren, generated leads in a national database with DNA samples from convicted felons.
The database generated leads that identified two men, Amos E. Robinson and Abron Scott.
Both men are currently incarcerated, serving one or more life sentences, according to Florida Department of Corrections records. Robinson is currently serving three life sentences, while Scott is serving one. Warren said the two were in prison for a murder in Pinellas County from 1983.
“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. “In July, Linda Lansen was found at the end of Memorial Highway in Town ‘n’ Country. She had been raped, shot in the head, and dumped in the bushes. In August, Barbara Grams was found behind a dental office in Tampa Heights. She had beaten to death and raped. In September, Hermenia Castro was found in a vacant lot in East Tampa. She had been shot and put in the trunk of a car, which was then set on fire. In October of 1983, Carlos Orellana was found in the woods in Oldsmar. He had been kidnapped and beaten and run over in his own car.”
Warren said Robinson and Scott were currently serving sentences for Orellana’s death. In 1991, Warren said the State Attorney’s Office had charged Robinson and another man for Castro’s death, but the case never made it to trial due to a lack of evidence.
“Since then, Robinson has actually killed two more people while he was in prison. Prison inmates,” Warren said. “We’ve now connected Amos Robinson to four murders in a span of 103 days in Tampa in 1983, and Abron Scott to three murders. These men are serial murderers and rapists, and although they’re already serving a life sentence, their crimes against Barbara Grams and Linda Lansen cannot, and will not, go unpunished.”
Warren said the only people who benefit from wrongful convictions are the criminals themselves. Then he introduced Linda Shesfield, Lansen’s namesake, who spoke about the impact of the murder.
“She was my role model, she was a very strong, determined, warm and wonderful woman, that I personally depended on growing up,” Shesfield said. “She taught me to count to 100, she taught me to put on makeup. We go back, it was the beginning of my life, it was everything. They not only robbed me, but they robbed a 7-year-old girl of her mother.”
Shesfield said there were “no words” that could describe the nearly 40 years she had gone through of grief and not knowing what had happened.
Following questions about the cold cases, Warren gave a statement about the suspension actions from Gov. DeSantis Thursday morning. He said that he had not yet looked at the executive order from DeSantis, but had gotten up and prepared to do his job.
“I’ve heard it [the order] contains a lot of conjecture and lies, and just based on the governor’s track record with unconstitutional orders, I have a feeling that this is going to be just as unconstitutional as the 15-week abortion, the anti-protest law, and a dozen other things the governor has signed,” Warren said. He said despite the governor’s “signing something with a pen or a crayon” doesn’t change that fact as a duly elected state attorney.