ORLANDO, Fla. -- More than 17 years after the body of a 20-year-old spring breaker was dumped along a roadway in Volusia County, Fla., a convict in Louisiana has claimed responsibility for her death.
Romalis Gordon recounted the death of Christine Lazzaro in detail and provided information that convinced investigators he was the woman's killer, said Volusia County Sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson.
Lazzaro was on spring break from Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., and was last seen the night of April 10, 1993, in a couple of nightclubs in Daytona Beach, Fla., Davidson said.
Her body was found the next morning -- Easter Sunday -- in DeBary, Fla. She had been shot twice.
Sheriff's Investigator Larry Horzepa, now a homicide investigator in the agency's Major Case Unit, was one of the investigators assigned to the Lazzaro homicide. One thing he remembers is that there was little to go on, Davidson said.
About two weeks after the killing, investigators circulated a composite sketch of a man seen with Lazzaro the night before her body was found. They never identified the man in the composite. Eventually, the trail grew cold.
That changed last month when Gordon sent a note to the warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In it, he said he wanted to confess to a murder.
Warden Burl Cain told Volusia County authorities that several months earlier Gordon had attended a religious service conducted by Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Tabernacle.
"Gordon was so moved by Pastor Cymbala's message that he wanted to get his life straight in order to live a moral life," Cain said. "To do so, he wanted to confess to the murder and tell the victim's family that he's sorry. He hopes that Pastor Cymbala can also meet with his victim's family to express his sorrow."
Gordon, 38, is serving two life sentences for murdering two women during a robbery at a truck-stop casino in 2006. Gordon pleaded guilty to the murders in 2007 and wrote a letter of apology to the families of his victims, accepting responsibility for his crimes and asking for their forgiveness, officials said.
Horzepa and Sgt. Ashley Combs interviewed Gordon last month in Louisiana. According to Davidson, Gordon told Volusia County investigators the following:
He arrived in Florida about three or four months before the killing and was using an alias because he was wanted in Louisiana for armed robbery. He said he was working in Orlando and came to Daytona Beach because it was spring break.
Gordon said he struck up a conversation with Lazzaro at a nightclub. Then they left together. Eventually, they ended up in Gordon's motel room near DeBary.
The new acquaintances had sex, he said, and afterward Gordon went into the bathroom to snort cocaine. When he came out of the bathroom, he found Lazzaro was going through a pouch where he kept his fake IDs. Under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, Gordon said he became paranoid and feared that Lazzaro was going to turn him in. He decided to kill her.
He told Lazzaro he was going to drive her back to Daytona Beach. Instead, he pulled off the road in DeBary, ordered the woman out of the car and then got out and shot her dead.
Investigators know Gordon was in Central Florida near the killing: In June 1993, he was arrested in Orange County, Fla., for trespassing on school grounds. He had a handgun at the time, Davidson said.
"Gordon also provided information about the homicide scene that only a person involved with this murder would have knowledge about," Horzepa wrote in an investigative report after interviewing Gordon, adding that "details of the shots fired into Lazzaro's body matched the physical evidence found during the autopsy."
Gordon has not been charged in Lazzaro's death, but Davidson said investigators are consulting with the state attorney's office about possible prosecution.
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