Police identify another possible victim of a SWFL serial killer

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
Suspected serial killer Daniel Conahan (Credit: WINK News)

On Tuesday, Fort Myers police found the identity of one of eight men whose skeletal remains were found in the woods in 2007, suspected victims of a Southwest Florida serial killer known as the “Hog Trail Killer.”

The Fort Myers Police Department confirmed the identity of one of the men to be Robert Ronald “Bobbie” Soden. His remains were found in a wooded area of east Fort Myers.

The FMPD cold case unit, working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Parabon Nanolabs, a private DNA analysis company, conducted a genealogy research program using DNA collected from one of the skeletal remains. Based on the data that was searched, a family tree was developed that found the probable identity of the person. FMPD cold case investigators then located the direct relatives of the potential victim and completed a direct comparison of DNA, which confirmed the identity of Soden.

According to FMPD, Soden was 30 years old at the time of his last known contact with anyone, and investigators tied him to the Fort Myers area around that time. Family members were located in New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington.

Investigators believe Soden, like the others who were found in the same area, was the victim of a serial killer that was active in the area at the time. Daniel O. Conahan, known as the “Hog Trail Killer” was identified as a person of interest during the ongoing investigation. Conahan is currently on death row in Florida for a murder he committed in Charlotte County in 1996.

Robert Ronald “Bobbie” Soden. Credit: Fort Myers Police Department

From 1994 to 1997, about five young men were also found murdered in Charlotte and Lee counties and detectives believe Conahan could be connected to all of them. They believe Conahan lured his victims into the woods, forced them to get naked, strangled them, and cut off their genitals. It was Conahan’s M.O., to tie up his victims, take photographs of them and murder them, investigators say.

Investigators submitted DNA profiles for each of the eight male skeletons from 2007 to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. The database is a national clearinghouse for DNA profiles of missing persons and the unidentified dead. Public Awareness campaigns were also conducted by detectives and families that reported a missing family member submitted DNA samples for examination to the submitted profiles. Over time, three of the subjects were identified: Jonathan Tihay, Johnathan Blevins, and Eric Kohler.

Soden is the fourth subject identified, but the investigation will continue until all eight of the victims are identified and their families are notified.

WINK News spoke with Jonathan Blevins’s mother and she shared some thoughts about what happened when and since her son vanished.

“He just left the house and said he’d be back … and he never came back,” Blevins said.

Matthew Alberto leads the Fort Myers Police Department cold case unit, and he shared some thoughts with WINK News.

“I contacted them to see what the update was, and see if there were any snags. And he said, no, we’ve got it,” Alberto said.

“They established the family tree, brought it down to the parents, and then the siblings and our victim,” Alberto said.

WINK News asked Alberto if he will use this technology to identify others in this cold case.

“It’s a possibility,” Alberto responded. “And we’re looking at it. In fact, we’ve already started analyzing the next individual to see if we can get them started on it.”

FMPD asks anyone who may remember Soden to contact FMPD at (239) 321-7700.

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