Florida family fights for custody of daughter of accused killer

Southeast

A spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department confirmed “additional body parts” were found at McKay Bay, near the 22nd Street Causeway Bridge, just before noon on Friday. (WFLA)

TAMPA (NewsNation) — An 8-year-old girl is at the center of a custody fight involving two women who say they are the girl’s aunt and grandmother and a Florida man charged in a gruesome killing and dismemberment.

Sarah Gray says she is the aunt of the 8-year-old girl who is currently in DCF care, and that her sister, April Thompson, was the little girl’s mother. According to Gray, the girl and Thompson, who died in early September, were living with Robert Kessler, whom Tampa police arrested for the murder of Stephanie Crone-Overholts.

“She is this spunky little girl,” Gray said of the girl. “She loves to laugh. She loves to tell you about everything and she just loves to love, that’s the best thing I love about her. She’s just so sweet and pure and innocent. We are currently trying to battle and do what we can to get custody, to get her back home with family because we just miss her very much.”

A police report identifies the 8-year-old as the daughter of Kessler.

Gray said Kessler is a man with a violent temper.

“He has a history of battery (on) April, and given how he could be easily irate and act out and threaten others, I would definitely label him a vicious person,” Gray said.

Kessler was arrested after parts of her body were discovered in Tampa’s McKay Bay.

Court documents state that a witness called 911 to report he’d found part of a human leg in McKay Bay on Nov. 11. When officers arrived they found part of a leg that had been severed a few inches above the knee.

Several reports followed as more body parts were discovered.

Witnesses at the scene told police they had been fishing and heard several loud splashes in the area and believed something had been thrown off the bridge.

Police say several witnesses reported seeing Kessler in the area and phone records show his cellphone was in the area at the time he was reportedly seen by the witnesses.

Crime scene technicians searched Kessler’s home and found numerous areas of visible blood throughout the residence. New carpet had been placed in one area and new bedding was on top of a single mattress.

State Attorney Andrew Warren sent a motion to the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit on Monday, asking the court to order pretrial detention for Kessler. 

“(Kessler) has committed a dangerous crime, and the facts and circumstances indicate a disregard for the safety of the community, and there are no conditions of release that will adequately protect the community,” Warren wrote in the motion.

This story is developing.

NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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