Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Police: Remains are missing mother, child; father apparently murdered child during visitation (Winter Haven, Florida)

It appears that the 3-year-old daughter was visiting her father and his wife when she was "accidentally" killed in May 2009. According to the the wife, dad LESTER ROSS then stored the body for months in a deep freezer. The mom, who lived in Georgia, apparently grew impatient with all of Daddy's "months of excuses" regarding the child's disappearance, so she drove to Winter Haven, Florida to investigate in October 2009. It was her insistence that apparently caused the father to "silence" (murder) her as well. It then appears that Daddy put both bodies in the trunk of his car, drove them to an orange grove, and buried them. The bodies were discovered just recently.

Despite the wife's story, Ross has yet to be charged.

Of course, there is another issue here that has been rendered totally invisible. Why was this preschooler visiting a father who lived out of state? Was this court-ordered or what? Was there previous evidence that this guy was violent and abusive, evidence that was ignored when a tiny girl was ordered to visit him anyway? Or did Mom agree to informal visitation, perhaps with the hope of avoiding a custody "battle"? As very often happens the spector of custody/visitation lurks behind a double murder, and the media utterly fails to take notice.

Winter Haven Police: Remains Are Missing Mother, Child

Lester Ross 32 who last week was charged with tampering with a witness a life-sentence felony for threatening his wife Sharon Ross.

By Rick Rousos

Published: Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 12:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 12:09 a.m.

WINTER HAVEN It may take several weeks for scientists to positively identify two skeletons -- an adult's and a child's -- unearthed last week in a shallow grave in an east Winter Haven orange grove.

Holmes Police say they're confident the remains belong to Masarah Ross, 3, and her mother, Ronkeya Holmes, 29.

Skeletal remains are often identified through dental records, but that won't happen in this case.

"Masarah apparently had never been to a dentist," Winter Haven police Chief Gary Hester said. "And we can't find any dental records for Ronkeya."

The two skeletons have been taken to a state-of-the-art human identification lab at the University of Florida. Forensic anthropologists will attempt to extract DNA from the bones to identify the remains. The scientists will attempt to establish cause of the deaths as well, Hester said.

Lester Ross, 32, is Masarah's father and Holmes' former boyfriend. Police say Lester Ross buried the two bodies.

Sharon Ross, Lester Ross' wife, told police Lester Ross claimed that Masarah's death in late May 2009 was an accident and said her husband stored the dead child for months in a deep freezer. She also told investigators that Lester Ross killed and buried Holmes, along with Masarah, Oct. 20, 2009.

Winter Haven police say Lester Ross's motive to kill Holmes was to silence her about Masarah's disappearance. Holmes, who was living in Georgia, had listened to months of excuses from Lester Ross about Masarah's whereabouts, police said.

Holmes drove to Winter Haven to find her daughter and that's what got her killed
, police said. Based on conversations with Sharon Ross, police said Lester Ross wrapped both bodies in sheets and struggled to put them into the trunk of her car.

Investigators said Sharon Ross was ordered by Lester Ross to drive to the orange grove, where he buried both bodies. Lester Ross had a suspended license at the time, Hester said.

Lester Ross has not been charged with homicide. But he was jailed last week without bail on a charge of witness tampering. Arrest documents said that after the bodies were buried, Lester Ross wrapped a cord around Sharon Ross' neck and threatened to kill her if she told police about the burials.

Associate Medical Examiner Vera Volnikh autopsied the skeletons. Medical Examiner Stephen J. Nelson said Thursday through a spokeswoman that nobody from his office could comment on the skeletons because they're connected to a pending police case.

UF's C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, where the two skeletons were taken, provides forensic anthropology services for coroners and medical examiners. The Ledger attempted to contact someone from the lab but it is closed until Monday.

Hester said he thinks anthropologists will be able to extract DNA from the bones and to make the determination that the skeletal remains belong to Masarah and Holmes.

"This is a very critical part of our investigation," Hester said.

What may take some time is testing the DNA extracted from the bones. David Waller, head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Lakeland office, said the FDLE's "process for evaluating evidence can take weeks to complete."

Hester and Waller both were in the orange grove when the skeletons were uncovered. Both said they did not notice any severe damage to the two skeletons. "The main thing I did notice was that one skeleton was big and one was very small," Hester said.

Hester said that in the unlikely event the skeletons can't be identified, a prosecution absolutely will go on.

"A lot of cases have been successfully prosecuted without a body," he said.

"Whoever those skeletons are, we know for sure who put them there," Hester said.

Detectives are working the case hard and have the luxury of doing it right, not fast, because "the killer is in jail," Hester said.

"Time is on our side."