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Man Charged With Murder In Case Of Dismembered Pennsylvania Woman Found In Tampa

Robert Kessler, who has decades of drug charges on his record, now faces two more felonies after the dismembered body parts of Stephanie Crone Overholts were found in Tampa Bay.

By Megan Carpentier
Robert Kessler Pd

A Tampa-area man already in prison has been charged in the gruesome dismemberment of a Pennsylvania woman discovered in the Tampa Bay.

Robert Kessler, 69, was charged last week with second-degree murder and felony abuse of a human body in the death of Stephanie Crone-Overholts, 47, a mother of three who'd recently arrived in Florida from western Pennsylvania. 

Crone-Overholts was identified after the Tampa Police released photos of a distinctive tattoo seen on a dismembered leg recovered from McKay Bay, a waterway on the southeast side of the city. The tattoo depicted three intertwined red hearts with blue-and-white banners bearing three names: Sean, Greg and Zach, which were the names of Crone-Overholts' sons.

Sean Overholts issued a statement before Kessler's arrest, which he referred the Tampa Bay Times to thereafter: “My family and I are devastated. This has been a living nightmare. It is unimaginable what she went through."

Tampa Police Interim Chief Ruben Delgado announced the charges during a Wednesday night press conference.

"We think it’s extremely important that we let the Tampa community know that the person responsible for this heinous crime is off the streets tonight," he said just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Crone-Overholts' tattooed leg was pulled from the water on Nov. 11, followed by other parts thereafter. Erie, Penn. Police Chief Dan Spizarny confirmed to the Times that the woman's mother filed a missing persons report on Nov. 11. According to Tampa's Delgado, detectives spoke to Kessler on Nov. 14.

"When we went out to speak to Mr. Kessler about the missing person report that Stephanie was filed upon in Pennsylvania, he told us that Stephanie was staying there for a while but however had left a few weeks prior," Delgado told reporters. "It was quickly determined that what he was telling us was not factual."

The located Crone-Overholts' car on Nov. 16 and began serving search warrants thereafter. They confirmed her identity on Nov. 20; according to Delgado, the car and the search warrants served at Kessler's house turned up blood that was identified as Crone-Overholts', which, along with other evidence, allowing them to classify her death as a homicide.

Kessler — who did not wish to be identified at the time — spoke to NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa on Monday about how he met the woman he's now charged with killing.

"I met her on Fletcher at McDonald’s," he told the station, referring to Fletcher Avenue in north Tampa. (There are two McDonalds on it; it's unclear to which one Kessler was referring.) "Me and my little girl met her and she had a Pennsylvania plate and was in her car, and it was obvious to see that she was homeless and stayed in her car, and she explained to me that her ankles swell up because she slept in her car."

Kessler said the two struck up a conversation because he'd previously lived in her hometown of Erie, which is why he invited her to stay with him. "I just invited her to stay because I have three bedrooms and two baths, and she was from Erie, Pennsylvania."

"She would be gone all night sometimes," he added, "but she always acted normal and she was always real good and meticulous about cleaning the house up for me." 

Kessler told the police something similar about how they met, according to Delgado, though he specifically told the station that he'd asked Crone-Overholts to leave.

Kessler has a criminal record in the Tampa Bay area dating back at least to 1987, according to state records reviewed by Oxygen.com. It includes 11 cocaine possession convictions, nine cocaine sale convictions, one grand theft conviction and one petit theft/third conviction charge. His last conviction appears to be from 2011, on the petit theft charge; he was released from prison in 2013.

Following the announcement of the charges against Kessler, Sean Overholts gave a new statement to WFLA.

"My mother she was a loving person," he said. "She may not have made the best decisions in life, but she was my mother, she loved us very much and she did not deserve what happened to her and nobody does.”