(A few days ago, my computer caught a virus that ended its life. A new machine was born and sent to my domicile. So, after a brief hiatus, I'm back online and writing once more.)
On the evening of March 20, 1994, Robert and Bunny Lehton returned home from church. As they entered their house on 1240 South Orlando Avenue in Cocoa Beach, Florida, they were confronted by a masked intruder who brandished a knife and gun. Threatening them, he tied up the couple.
They complied with the stranger in their home because they knew their twenty-one-year-old daughter would be arriving soon. Amy Gellert was in charge of working the sound board for the late afternoon church service and had remained there after her mother and step-father left. Robert and Bunny hoped to encourage the intruder to leave before Amy got home.
They would not be successful.
An article in the Orlando Sentinel described the weapons used by the assailant: "Their captor carried a double-edged dagger and a gun--a blank-firing stage-prop Brixia 8mm automatic that looks like the real thing but isn't...Investigators said the gun could have been used in the theater or plays. Deputies identified it from a piece of evidence left at the home."
Detectives from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office determined that the gun may have been a prop used by actors. "We believe [the intruder] was unfamiliar with this weapon," said investigator Gary Howard. "It could have been stolen from a college or university, [or] lost somewhere. We need to know who is missing this gun."
After binding the couple, the stranger paced back and forth. He indicated that he was waiting for someone to pick him up.
Bunny reported to investigators that the man had a mid-Atlantic accent. He wore gloves, she said, that "were knit, with leather on the palms and the backs, not like anything you could find down here."
As the intruder continued to pace, the lights of Amy's car flashed in the driveway.
This seemed to enrage the stranger. He suddenly launched a frenzied knife attack, severely wounding the homeowners. As Amy got out of her car, he approached her, stabbing her numerous times in the head and neck. She attempted to shield herself with a backpack, but was unsuccessful. After a brief struggle, the astonished young woman collapsed in a pool of blood and died.
After spending weeks in a local hospital, Robert and Bunny Lehton pulled through.
During the attack on Amy, the assailant dropped the gun's magazine. Years later, investigators were able to obtain a DNA profile from the magazine. However, they haven't yet been able to come up with a match from their suspect pool or any DNA databank.
The working theory of investigators is that the assailant and his accomplice knew the family attended church services each Sunday evening. The intruder was dropped off at the home with the intent of burglarizing it. He forced his way in and was ransacking the house when the couple returned. Since his cohort hadn't yet arrived to pick him up, the stranger came up with a new plan. Binding the couple, he waited for his ride. Then Amy came home. The assailant, according to the theory, panicked and decided to eliminate everyone. After stabbing the entire family, police stated that he fled toward the ocean near their home.
The man was slightly below average in height and had a pronounced Pennsylvania or Maryland accent. His knife had a twisted gold chain hilt. Robert Lehton, a psychiatrist, made a telling observation. "It seemed," Lehton said, "[that] he had a love affair with that knife, the way he was handling it."
For sixteen years, this case has gone unsolved. It's been investigated by several agencies, including the Brevard County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. There's a reward for information leading to the conviction of a suspect. Amy's case was also publicized on Florida's Cold Case Playing Cards.
It's likely that the killer or his accomplice has told someone about murdering a girl in Florida. If you have any information on this case, call 1-800-423-TIPS.
Justice for Amy Gellert demands it.