MIAMI (CBS4) – When Ed Bozarth’s body was found aboard his boat, the Screw U-2, on July 1, 2007, there was no shortage of suspects or speculation about who could have killed him.
“Everyone was suspect,” noted Denise Malefyt, the owner of a small newspaper in the Florida Keys.
Bozarth’s boat was docked just outside of Key Largo, on an out-of-the-way site known as Gilbert’s Marina.
“Rumor was that it was a Gilbert’s employee, a Gilbert’s ex-employee,” recalled Jim Lowry, who lived in the Keys and knew Bozarth. Lowry said there was also talk about the Chicago mob being responsible, or perhaps drug dealers, or maybe even something more nefarious.
Almost anything seemed possible.
“It is the Keys, you know,” Malefyt said with a laugh.
For nearly five years, the murder of Ed Bozarth was a mystery that looked like it would never be solved. But all that recently changed.
So who did kill the man now known around the marina simply as Dead Ed? Well to answer that question CBS4 visited Gilbert’s Marina.
Located in a lost corner of paradise, Gilbert’s is populated with its own peculiar brand of eccentrics. Reinhard Schaupp is the owner.
“Well we have some characters here of course,” agreed Reinhard Schaupp, the owner. “Well believe me they are still good people.”
Rob Schroth has lived on a houseboat docked at Gilbert’s for nine years.
“And I’ll die here , they’ll run my body across the sand to the waiting hearse,” he said, sipping a beer at the bar.
For nearly three decades, Schroth was one of the most influential political consultants and pollsters in Miami. But then one day he stumbled into Gilbert’s, spotted a “For Sale” sign on one of the houseboats and bought it on the spot. He’s been here ever since.
“If you divorce yourselves from other lives that almost immediately makes you different,” Schroth told CBS4’s Jim DeFede. “Even quirky. And there is a lot of quirkiness down here.”
For every thousand people that drive into the Keys, only a handful might even notice the turnoff that would take them to Gilberts. That isolation is just fine for those who make the marina their home since Gilberts is the kind of place you go to when you don’t want to be found.
Ed Bozarth was certainly that type of fellow.
“Ed wanted to withdraw from the world as much as I did, we wanted to stay away from people,” Lowry said.
Lowry says there was always mystery surrounding his friend Ed — whispers that he was once a contract employee of the DEA and the CIA, who in the Eighties and Nineties flew secret missions for the government in Latin America.
“From what I understand he was doing crazy things for the government,” said Bonnie Colon, who was friends with Ed and Ed’s wife Denise. “Spying sort of things.”
In the summer of 2007, Bozarth was living aboard the Screw U-2 with his wife Denise and their two kids. Denise and Ed made an odd couple. He was almost 30 years older than her.
“Denise was a hang on bar fly that went where the money was,” Lowry said with contempt.
Added Malefyt: “White trash.”
For 62-year-old Ed Bozarth his time in paradise came to a brutal end in late June 2007
“Seven distinct, hard blows [to the head] so bad that they had to go to the University of Florida to have the skull reconstructed to even see what type of object killed him,” Lowry said.
Ed’s skull had been caved in with a hammer. He was found tied up with ropes in the fetal position, according to the medical examiner’s report. There was a belt wrapped around his neck and his body was then shoved into a large bag designed to hold the sails from a boat.
“When we heard the story, the body was in a plastic bag, of course somebody killed him,” said Schaupp, the marina owner.
Bozarth’s body was hidden in the engine room and his remains wouldn’t be discovered for a week — when finally the stench coming from below decks was so great that it prompted a search of the vessel.
While there were plenty of theories as to who might have killed Ed, suspicion quickly settled on Ed’s wife Denise and the night security guard for the marina, Dave Campbell.
Witnesses claim that Denise Bozarth and Dave Campbell were indeed having a third rate romance around the docks.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” Campbell said when CBS4’s Jim DeFede first asked him about the alleged romance. “That part I will not discuss.”
But after a few minutes Campbell did admit to being intimate with her. “Yes, at one time, a couple of times we were, but that was all,” he said.
A week before Ed’s body was found, Denise had packed up her belongings and left him – sending their kids to live with her parents.
Campbell suspected Denise Bozarth was involved in Ed Bozarth’s death because she stood to inherit a lot of money when he died.
“There is a lot of money involved in this,” he explained. “I know there is someplace around $400,000 or 500,000 dollars — now that’s a lot of freakin’ money.”
Bonnie Colon, who stayed with Ed and Denise on the boat for a few weeks that summer, also said folks knew Ed Bozarth was wealthy.
“Ed was rich, extremely rich,” she said. “To look at him you would not think that man was filthy rich but he had a lot of money.”
Police reports after Bozarth’s death confirmed that Bozarth had more than $600,000 in a trust fund which he inherited when his mother died.
When the police first questioned Denise Bozarth at her parents’ home in North Florida, she said Ed was alive when she left. Instead, she pointed a finger at Dave.
“The very first thing to come out of her mouth was, `Dave,'” Campbell said. “That’s when I really got mad. I mean I really got mad. I said I can’t believe she said that. So that’s when I volunteered some information to [detectives].”
Campbell told investigators that Denise made it known she would pay $10,0000 to anyone who killed her husband and made it look like an accident.
Bonnie Colon also recalls how Denise used to talk all the time about wanting Ed killed.
“She would always just tell me things, like, `Oh man, I just wish I could kill him,'” Colon said. “It was like she was almost soliciting it to me. I just brushed it off and said, `Oh let’s go and have fun, let’s not worry about killing anybody, let’s go have a couple of drinks and relax.’ But she was really intense on it.”
Bonnie said Denise complained that Ed was too controlling. He would make her dive for food in the dumpsters behind Winn Dixie.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t mention [killing her husband] to me,” she said.
Denise’s father – a Florida State Trooper – told investigators that a Colombian hit squad may have come to Gilberts to kill Ed as payback for Ed’s secret government work.
Investigators, however, kept their focus on Denise. The only question: Did she do it alone? Or did she have help?
Campbell said Denise could have killed Bozarth by herself.
“She outweighed him, and she was a big girl too,” Campbell said.
In 2007, Denise failed a polygraph, according to police reports. In July 2011, she still maintained her innocence, but told detectives that Ed regularly beat her.
When CBS4 News sat down with Campbell at his home in Lake Wales Florida on March 15 to interview him about the case, he seemed certain that Denise would never be charged.
“I would say that if they haven’t arrested her by now, they’re not going to,” Campbell argued.
Ironically, at that very moment, as CBS4 News was talking to Campbell, detectives were in fact arresting Denise Bozarth at her new home in Paxton, Florida. They charged her with first-degree murder. Police say Denise Bozarth confessed after she was taken into custody. She now claims she killed Ed in self-defense. She claims he came at her with a gun and she hit him in the head with a hammer. She said she acted alone.
Bozarth is currently being held in the Monroe County Jail in Key West. She recently pleaded not guilty at her arraignment.
Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward still has to decide if he will seek the death penalty in the case.