Friday, April 16, 2010

Miramar, FL: Man Charged In Girlfriend's Murder Denied Bond

Carey Codd
E-mail MIRAMAR (CBS4) ―
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Police say Paul Edwards killed his girlfriend and stuffed her body in a barrel.
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Miramar Police Need Help Locating Missing Woman
A man charged with killing his girlfriend and then stuffing her body in a barrel to hide the evidence made his first court appearance Thursday where a judge denied him from bonding out of jail.

Miramar Police arrested Paul Edwards Wednesday and charged him with the murder and decapitation of his live-in girlfriend. Detectives say Edwards stabbed Lisa Spence at least 33 times, stuffed her body into a barrel and then dumped it in a canal. He also allegedly sent phony text messages to Spence's family pretending to be her.

"We have some answers now, and we can start the process of healing," Spence's sister-in-law Avril Absolum told CBS4's Carey Codd. "It was gruesome and cruel what he did."

According to the arrest warrant in the case, the story begins on October 7th when Spence disappeared. She finished her shift at Bella Beauty Supply in Miramar and went to the apartment she shared with her longtime boyfriend, Edwards.

Spence did not show up for work the next day. Her boss called 911. He told police Spence was reliable and would never miss her shift.

Her boss also told police Spence was trying to leave Edwards, but she was afraid to because Edwards called in sick all week and stayed at home.

"She wanted to have a life with her children and sadly she underestimated the person she was dealing with," Absolum said. "She has had a cycle of abuse with him. Many years. This has gone on for quite a while."

In the days after Spence's disappearance, her family members began receiving strange text messages from her phone.

Family members say they routinely spoke to Spence, especially her 17-year-old daughter, Cerline Stewart. Spence also had a 10-year-old son. But the phone calls suddenly ceased.

The messages indicated Spence left Miramar and moved to Jacksonville. The messages also spoke highly of Edwards, saying "I am sad because I will miss Paul. With all that happened he still was good to me in the end."

Her family said it was out of character for Spence to text them and the language she used was unusual for her.

Police traced the cell phone records and noticed Spence's phone was nowhere near Jacksonville when that particular text was sent.

"Our investigation revealed that her cell phone and his cell phone were always together, and they were always in Miami-Dade County or Broward County, and nowhere near outside that area," said Miramar Det. Yessenia Diaz.

At the same time, Miramar Police began questioning Edwards about Spence's disappearance, although he refused to take a lie-detector test.

The arrest warrant shows that Edwards admitted he and Spence had physical arguments in the past. He told police she left the apartment on October 7. He added that he had not seen or heard from her since.

But inside the apartment, evidence police uncovered told a different tale.

The arrest warrant reveals that police discovered blood "in several locations inside the residence." They also found Edwards's blood on a mop found in the apartment.

Police also noticed several cuts on Edwards's finger and arm. Edwards said he received the wounds when Spence threatened him with a knife. According to the warrant, Edwards later told a co-worker he received the cuts when he was cutting chicken.

Detectives continued investigating the case throughout October and November, however, there was still no sign of Lisa Spence.

Miramar Police kept a close eye on Edwards. The warrant reveals they tracked some of his movements.

A break in the case came in mid-December. K-9's from Miramar Police and Miami Gardens Police picked up the scent of remains in a barrel left in a Miami Gardens field. Inside the barrel was the body of a decapitated woman with dozens of stab wounds.

It took months, but investigators used DNA samples from Spence's daughter to confirm that the body was Lisa Spence.

"This is definitely one of the most violent and gruesome scenes that this department has worked," Sgt. Diaz said.

Spence's family says the way she died will haunt them forever.

"She knew she was gonna die," Absolum said. "We think about what Lisa went through that night -- just a very, very terrifying experience. The way he did it, it's just beyond words."

Miramar Police arrested Edwards Wednesday and charged him with first degree murder. CBS4 News tried to reach his lawyer for comment but he did not return several phone messages.

Spence's family credited the Miramar Police Department with unraveling the mystery which began as a missing persons case and ended in an arrest for murder.

Sgt. Diaz said if family members hadn't spoken up, this case might never have been solved.

"(The family) did suspect foul play, and if it wasn't for that specific information that they got to us immediately, and how unusual the manner of her disappearance was to them, we wouldn't be where we're at today," she said.

Spence's family does not want her death to be in vain. They want women in abusive relationships to get out quickly and get out alive.

The family also wants justice for Paul Edwards.

"We don't want him to walk freely," Absolum said. "Her children are growing up without a mom. Her mom and dad and siblings have had an unimaginable loss. We want him to pay for what he has done to Lisa."

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