Former Florida Gators football player charged with 2016 murder of live-in girlfriend

Earl Joiner
Earl Joiner Polk County Sheriff's Office

Former University of Florida football player Earl Joiner, a starter on the 2006 national championship team and captain the following season, was arrested Saturday for the 2016 murder of live-in girlfriend Heyzel Obando at their Fort Myers home.

The man known as Tony Joiner during his college career with the Gators, was being held in Polk County jail Sunday after being arrested and will be transferred to Lee County, Fort Myers police said.

Though some outlets reported Joiner and Obando were married, a Herald records check found no marriage. But arrest records put his March 2016 address at 3623 Crestwood Lake Ave., the same as Obagando’s.

While police did not release details on what led to Joiner’s arrest, Fort Myers police said in a Facebook post that it worked with the Oxygen Television series Cold Justice and the Office of the State Attorney to solve the case.

“The arrest of Joiner was the culmination of a multi-agency effort which dedicated itself to the investigation,” the department said.

Kelly Siegler from “Cold Justice” told FOX 4 last month that she had been working with the Fort Myers Police Department on the case.

“It’s a really tragic case to read,” Siegler told the station. “When you read it, it’s just one of those cases where you think, ‘with just a little bit more effort and concentration and push, it can be cleared.’”

On Valentine’s Day 2016, Obando’s body was found in her Fort Myers apartment. It took nearly two months for her death to be ruled a homicide, the Fort Myers News-Press reported at the time.

Early on, Joiner was not named a suspect, the News-Press reported.

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Lee County court records say Joiner was arrested in June 2013 and December 2013 on a charge of domestic violence-battery with the December arrest also including a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The June case ended with dismissal of charges and the December case ended with “No Information,” meaning the prosecutor didn’t think the case could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Joiner’s been convicted of unknowingly driving without a license and possession of drug equipment.

But a year after her daughter’s death, Isabel Martinez told the paper that her daughter was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Joiner. Martinez, the paper said, fought for custody of her daughter’s two children.

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Obando, who according to her Facebook page was from Miami, marked that she was in a relationship with Joiner and posted pictures of herself smiling and her children.

Joiner, a safety with the Gators after being recruited out of Haines City High School, made 27 starts in 47 games in his college career, intercepting five passes and forcing three fumbles.

A comment made by former UF head coach Urban Meyer in 2006 was included in the profile: ““I love Tony Joiner. He loves football and he loves the University of Florida.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.