William Robert Baer (pictured in mugshot) was arrested Thursday for murder charges related to a 1999 cold case in Jacksonville, Florida
A retired Florida Sheriff’s detective and his ex-wife were arrested on Thursday for beating and killing an aid worker outside his own home in 1999.
The Jacksonville Sheriff Office revealed that former officer William Robert Baer, 64, and his ex-wife Melissa Jo Schafer, 50, were charged with murder for the death of 39-year-old Saad Kawaf.
The two-decade-old cold case was cracked with genetic genealogy and help from the Cold Case Project, a nonprofit that helps the families of unsolved murder victims by publicizing cases.
“This is where it’s a turn we’re a little saddened about,” Undersheriff Pat Ivey said at a news conference.
‘Because of his specific assignment at JSO at the time, he came into contact with the victim. He was a detective who was looking at a crime that may have involved the victim. ‘
In May 1999, Kawaf reportedly left his home near Deerwood when a man and a female accomplice waiting outside attacked him in his driveway.
He was beaten and stabbed while being dragged into the garage of the house. Kawaf’s wife was tied up in the house and bit the female henchman in the course of a scuffle.
The suspects reportedly escaped the family’s home with $ 30,000.
That bite and the DNA left behind was one of the key pieces of evidence used to identify Schafer, arrested by authorities in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Her arrest led the investigators to Baer, who was sworn in as a police officer in 1975 and retired from the Jackson Sheriff’s Office in 2002.
At the time, Baer was a detective in the homicide department. He was reportedly acquainted with Kawaf because of an assignment with the department.
Saad Kawaf (pictured) reportedly left his Florida home in May 1999 when two suspects stabbed him and beat him in his garage
Investigators at the time only knew that the suspects were a white woman and a white man.
Detectives said on Thursday that two DNA profiles were made in 2003, but submitted to a genetic lab in May this year gave a more thorough ‘indication’ of who the suspects were.
A list of possible suspects was provided to the investigators. Undersherrif Ivey said he was unable to reveal many details about the case and arrest, as the investigation is still ongoing.
According to First Coast News, Baer had been monitoring Kawaf’s house in 1999 as part of an investigation into allegations that he was illegally selling pseudoephedrine in his convenience store and that a large amount was in the house.
Pictured: A police drawing of the female accomplice presented by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1999
It is unclear whether Baer was interviewed by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office after Kawaf’s murder.
Det. Margo Rhatigan said that money had been stolen from the house and that this was a possible motive for the murder.
Baer’s alleged crime took place against the background of a controversial Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the 1990s, when the department faced investigations by the grand jury and convictions of officers.
The department is reportedly facing various corruption charges, a murder trial, and was the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary that investigated Brenton Butler’s false confession.
Undersheriff Pat Ivey (pictured) said at a news conference that DNA and genetic genealogy helped crack the case after 21 years
Brenton Butler, then 15, said he was mistreated in 2000 and forced to confess to a murder by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, one officer was convicted of murdering a shop assistant, while three others were convicted of charges of drug trafficking, bank fraud, and conspiracy.
Kawaf’s niece released a statement on behalf of the family after news of Baer and Schafer’s arrests was revealed.
‘We are excited. We are grateful. Not a day has gone by that we don’t miss our beloved Saad, Heather Kayal wrote.
“The last 21 years have been the most difficult not only to be without a man who meant so much to our family, but to know that the people who did this were not held accountable for their actions.
“We are grateful to the brave members of the cold case unit and all members of the law enforcement who have worked tirelessly for us to ensure justice and that Saad’s memory will never be forgotten.”