A key figure in the brutal murder of Broward County teenager Marissa Karp, whose body was shoved into a garbage bag and dumped into an Everglades canal more than a decade ago, has been shot to death in the Bahamas.
The killing of Randolph Almanto Coakley, also a fugitive in a separate 2002 double murder in Sunrise linked to the Bahamian narcotics trade, will make it even tougher to finally close the books on the murder of a troubled 17-year-old runaway whose death led to an overhaul of the state’s child welfare agency.
A number of law enforcement agencies, including the Sunrise police department, had been trying for years to bring Coakley, Karp’s former boyfriend, and another suspect into custody for questioning but had been unable to locate them in the Bahamas where they fled years ago, said Sunrise police spokesman Sgt. Rodney Hailey.
“I am not going to say the death is unfortunate because of the lifestyle he led and what he is accused of doing,’’ Hailey said on Saturday. But, he added, “It’s a setback for the case.”
Marissa’s father Gary Karp expressed disappointment. Over the years, Karp has held annual news conferences and handed out fliers to keep her memory, and case, alive. He joined Broward Crime Stoppers, traveled to the Bahamas and appeared on an episode of America’s Most Wanted last August devoted to rekindling public, police and media interest on the 10-year anniversary of the discovery of his daughter’s remains.
Karp could not be reached for comment on Saturday but he posted a link to a Nassau Guardian story about Coakley’s killing on his Facebook page.
“Can’t catch a break,’’ wrote Karp, who now lives in Wellington in western Palm Beach County. “The never-ending story. It’s not over Marissa we will get justice for you!! I promise! Love always Dad.”
In a Friday release the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the 38-year-old Coakley, who the Guardian reported was known by the street name “Prodigal,’’ had been killed Thursday afternoon while sitting outside a Nassau home with two other men. A man in a blue hooded jacket approached from a nearby dirt road, police said, sprayed bullets at Coakley and then fled in a waiting gold Honda Accord.
Coakley was the second of several men linked to the Karp killing and a subsequent drug-related double murder in Sunrise that have been gunned down since returning to the Bahamas. Another suspect, Ryan Woods, died in a drive-by shooting in 2006. Police believe that if Coakley, officially considered a “person of interest’’ in Karp’s murder, didn’t kill the young woman himself, he probably knew who did.
An airboat operator discovered Karp’s remains on Aug. 19, 2002, in a large green plastic garbage bag on a bridge embankment along the L-28 Canal off Alligator Alley, just north of the Broward County line. The petite teen, nicknamed “Shorty” by friends, had been beaten and shot in the chest.
Karp was killed about four months after moving into a tiny Hallandale Beach efficiency with Coakley, a suspected drug dealer who went by the name Shawn Smith while living in South Florida.
It was a tragic ending for a troubled young woman, whose life fell into a downward spiral after the death of her mother in 1996. Karp, who attended middle school and Piper High School in Sunrise, struggled after her father remarried. Family relations eventually became so strained that he placed her in the custody of Florida’s Department of Children & Families.