On the 19th of October 1967, students at Florida High School in Tallahassee were summoned to a meeting with Dr. H. Clay Bishop, where they were informed of the deaths of two of their classmates. Dr. Bishop urged the students to stop the rumors that were spreading about their classmates’absence. Some of the girls were seen crying as they filed out of the room. The two victims had attended class on the 17th and were well-liked by the others.
At around midnight on the 17th,
an anonymous caller said that he had been at a place where he should not have
been, and therefore could not identify himself, but felt that he should report
having seen two bodies in the woods near Blue Sink. This was a small lake
located just south of Tallahassee, in the Apalachicola National Forest. Sheriff
Bill Joyce arrived at the scene just after one of his deputies. The bodies of
two young females were found about 10-12 feet apart. Information in the girls’
purses led to their identification and positive ID was established later in the
The girls were identified as
Elizabeth Ann Wood and Flora Kay Granger, both 17 years old and high school
students at Florida High. They were both shot and stabbed. One was fully
clothed, and the undergarments of the other were missing. They were found on
their backs on a blood-soaked bed of pine needles with signs of a struggle. No
murder weapon was found.
Both victims were described by those
who knew them as pleasant, happy, average high school girls. Ann played a horn
in the student orchestra, and Kay was in the chorus. They both lived within
walking distance of their school, the educational training school for Florida
State University. Kay worked after school at Krispy Kreme on West Tennessee
Street. The manager said she was on the job from 4 to 7 p.m.
The girls were last seen alive the
night they were killed between 8:30 and 9 p.m. They had left the Granger home
at about 8, and the Wood family station wagon they left the home in was found
abandoned the next day in front of a hamburger place on West Tennessee Street.
The two bought ice cream sandwiches from J.M. Fields between 8:30 and 8:40 from
a clerk who knew them. The clerk said they were alone, and she didn’t see them
leave. The proprietor of the Wagon Wheel Drive-In, on South Monroe Street said
Kay bought some potato chips at the service window after 8, but he did not
An Arrest is Made:
Around 1:30 a.m. on October 18,
Sheriff Simmie Moore of Madison County, Florida was told of a man at Madison
Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound. Sheriff Moore found Robert Scott
Sanders there with a wound to his arm. Sanders told the Sheriff that he was
watching TV with his friend and roommate, James Friesner, when a .22 caliber
revolver that Friesner was cleaning accidentally discharged, hitting him in the
Later in the day, when Sheriff Moore
heard about the killing of the two girls, he went to the Cherry Lake Friesner
home with State Beverage Agent William Eddy and brought both men to Madison for
questioning. He phoned Sheriff Joyce around 12:30 p.m. When Joyce arrived, he
interviewed and later arrested Sanders for killing the two girls.
Sanders’s account of what happened.
Sanders said he was driving along
the road from Blue Sink. He had dropped James Friesner off at a bowling alley
on Apalachee Parkway and was heading toward Blue Sink when he changed his mind
and turned the car around. As he was heading back toward Tallahassee, he met a
car and heard screams for help. He once again turned his car around and gave
chase. At a flashing traffic light, the car slowed down, and as it drew near,
someone threw a bottle at his car. This made him angry and he sped up until he
was able to cut the car off, forcing them to stop. He claimed there were two
men in the car, and he began to fight one of them. Sanders claimed that the
blood found later on his front tire came from the lip of the guy he was fighting.
He said the other man shot him in the left arm, then got back in the car and
sped away. He said he fired his .22 caliber revolver at the fleeing car. The
screams could still be heard as it sped away. He said it was a cream-colored
Ford with round taillights. He did not get the tag number.
James Friesner said that Sanders
told him the same story when he picked him up at the bowling alley around 11:45
p.m. There were blood stains on the front seat, an arm wound, a smashed
windshield, and a bullet hole in the right rear window. Friesner said the car
was his, and he later discovered blood in the trunk when he took it to the
service station where he worked to clean it up. Sanders told him the blood in
the trunk came from his arm while he was looking for something to use as a
bandage. Friesner said he often loaned his car to Sanders. When he heard about
the two slain girls, he demanded that Sanders tell him the truth, but Sanders
stuck to his story. When Friesner later saw a picture of Kaye Granger in the
paper, he recognized her as someone Sanders had occasionally dated. She had
even been to the Friesner home on one occasion. Witnesses verified that
Friesner was at the bowling alley from 8:15 to 11:45 p.m.
Some Sanders Background
Sanders was born in 1946 in Adelanto,
California. I haven’t found out much about his childhood, but by 1962, he and
his father, Michael C. Sanders, were living in Milton, Florida. In September
1965, Sanders quit school while attending Milton High School as a junior. He
was a student in the Diversified Cooperative Training Program, attending
classes and taking job training. He worked first for Dr. Herbert Lundy, a
Milton Veterinarian. Dr. Lundy recalled that Sanders had trouble with his
grades. He was failing when he went to work for him, but he was a hard worker
around the animals and did bring his grades up to passing. Dr. Lundy said that
because of Sanders’s interest in cars, he recommended him to Gentry Ford
Company, to which he transferred in the co-op program. Richard Lane, President
of Gentry Ford, said he let Sanders go because his work was unsatisfactory.
In 1964, the Milton city directory
listed Sanders living on Route 4, Box 204. A former neighbor who knew Michael
and his son was located by reporters. Her name was Mrs. Della Redfield. She
became friends with them when they moved there in 1962. She said that Robert
had “several hot rods around all the time and was always working on them.”
Robert was described as quiet and well-mannered. Michael Sanders worked as a
bookkeeper in Milton and ran a small country store east of the city on U.S.
Robert Scott Sanders was inducted into the army in Milton
after being drafted on May 25, 1966, four days after his twentieth birthday.
Sanders went AWOL, (absent without leave), from his post
with the Ninth Division, U.S. Army in Fort Riley, Kansas, which was preparing
for departure to Viet Nam. He traveled to Tallahassee and was hired by Hank
Mannheimer, owner of the Mannheimer
Service Station, located at Tennessee and Adams Streets, who later said that Sanders, “only had two
things on his mind, girls and the hot rod he was building.” Sanders worked at
the station until he was stopped for speeding and arrested on May 16. The next
day he was turned over to the Military Police from Fort Benning, Georgia, and
taken there to await further orders. Mannheimer said he never saw Sanders
Two days after arriving at Fort Benning, Sanders volunteered
to donate blood at a bloodmobile. He went in one door and departed from the
back door, losing his guard. He returned to Tallahassee, finding his friend
James Friesner. They moved from Tallahassee to Madison five months before the
Hearings and Trials
Being indigent, Sanders was appointed representation at his
first hearing. Murray Wadsworth, a young attorney just beginning his legal
career, was given the case. Wadsworth filed a writ of habeas corpus for a
hearing on a petition that stated he had not had an opportunity to interview
his client until 4:15 on the previous Friday. After the interview,, Wadsworth
decided he wanted Sanders to be given psychiatric and neurological
examinations. After an objection by the State Attorney, W.D. Hopkins, the judge
issued an oral order granting the exams. Wadsworth also requested that the
preliminary hearing, scheduled for November 3, be held with no reporters
present. Hopkins also objected to that.
On January 12, 1968, Wadsworth requested a change of venue
from Tallahassee to Miami due to what he called “prejudicial” newspaper and
television publicity. He filed his motion with 26 clippings from the Tallahassee Democrat to support his
charge of media bias. He included an advertisement from the paper pointing out
an increase in circulation of 34 percent since 1960, to show that more people
than ever got their news from the paper. He also cited a year-end roundup story
in the paper, labeling the Blue Sink murders as the “Number One” news story in
Tallahassee in 1967.
At Jury Selection on February 7, nine men and three women
were chosen. Wadsworth asked them during questioning if they would deliberate
objectively, without becoming too emotional when presented with the evidence.
He also asked if they could return a verdict of not guilty by reason of
insanity if evidence showed insanity at the time of the crime, and whether they
would give weight to psychiatrist testimony. He was also concerned about their
objectivity surrounding the use of a gun in the crime, and that his client was
AWOL from the army.
It is interesting to note that one of the jurors selected
was Mrs. Guyte McCord, Jr. She was the wife of one of Leon County’s four
circuit judges. Judge McCord was the judge who appointed Murray Wadsworth as
the defense council for Sanders. Neither side objected to her being a jury
member. The jurors would be sequestered at the Floridian Hotel for the duration
of the trial.
The opening day was attended by the parents of Sanders.
Michael Sanders and Mrs. Ann Gaff sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.
This trial would only be for the murder of Miss Granger.
Wadsworth unsuccessfully tried to get the two murders tried together, but the
trial for the murder of Miss Wood would not be until 1971. Kay Granger’s first
cousin, Lt. Dick Granger, was the first person to learn of the double slaying
while on duty as radio dispatcher the night of the killings.
At the opening of testimony, Attorney Murray Wadsworth
admitted that his client, “did it or probably did it,” as he began his defense.
“At the time he did it he was legally insane and there was no evidence of how
he did it.” Both a psychiatrist and a psychologist testified for the defense.
They said they had both examined Sanders and, in their opinion, he was
temporarily insane at the time of the murders.
Wadsworth introduced what would be described as “a
Bombshell” by calling Florida Highway Patrol Trooper, Jim Hawkins, to the stand.
Hawkins testified that he heard a tape recording of a phone call at the police
station and recognized it as a “maniac” who had the reputation of being a “sex
pervert.” Hawkins said he had arrested him, who he identified as Harold Dean
Cope, for drunk driving “about a week before” the murders. He said the man was
coming out of the Blue Sink Road area at the time, and there was a hatchet on
the floorboard of his car. The Hawkins testimony was before Judge Walker in the
absence of the jury. Hawkins testified that the man told him he had “just beat
up a girl and thrown her out of the car.” He said he went back to the location,
but could not find her. State Attorney Hopkins objected strongly to this
testimony, but the judge allowed it since the state had earlier brought up sex
Sanders admitted the gunshot but claimed not to remember the
stabbings or bludgeoning. Defense claimed someone else, (such as a pervert in
the area), could have attacked the bodies of the two girls after Sanders left the
scene. Sanders admitted being with the girls and shooting one of them, which he
said happened accidentally, but that he drew a blank after that until he saw
the girls’ bodies sprawled in pools of blood on the ground beside the car.
During his testimony, Sanders claimed that his own childhood
was so horrific, that while living in Milton, he would go to the county jail
and ask to be locked up so that he wouldn’t have to go back home. Sometimes he
would stay in jail for “two, or three days.” He claimed many of his problems
with his father were because he “stuck up for” his mother, even though he said
she had beaten him and his two half-brothers with a “broom handle or something”
for the first ten years of his life. “He threw me against the wall and beat me with
a belt because he didn’t want me sticking up for my mother.” At one point he
said he pleaded with the Santa Rosa County Judge to send him to the Florida
School for Boys at Marianna to get him away from home, but the judge wouldn’t
do it. He claimed he had blackouts before like the one he had the night at the
Sanders’ revised story.
He said he met the girls by accident
after leaving Friesner at the Parkway Bowling Alley. He had dated the Granger
girl before, and he said she and Miss Wood drove up beside him while he was
stopped at a red light at Monroe and Tennessee Streets about 9 p.m. Kay jumped
out of the car, ran over to his car and kissed him, followed by an invitation
to meet the two girls at the Burger Chef Drive-In on West Tennessee. From there
they went riding, winding up at Blue Sink to spy on teenage lovers, but found
no one there. He claims the girls started teasing him. He said during the
course of things, he took his pistol out of his pocket for a reason he could
not explain, and that Kay grabbed his arm, and the gun went off. Ann screamed
she had been shot. He said he remembered a series of gunshots and nothing else
until he found himself standing by the car with the two girls’ bodies lying on
the side of the car.
On cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney, Henry
Morrison brought out testimony from Sanders showing there was blood all over
the car when Sanders washed it off at a filling station on the way back to
town, indicating that the stabbing and beating had all taken place before
Sanders left the Blue Sink that night.
After all the testimony was heard, the jury deliberated for
two hours and fifteen minutes to find Sanders Not Guilty by reason of Insanity.
Sanders sobbed when he heard the verdict.
On February 12, the next day, some of the jurors were
concerned that the prosecutors did not follow through in some major areas of
the case. They were concerned with the exact cause of death, the exact type of
weapons used, and the possible involvement of the person who called the
sheriff’s office to report finding the bodies. Several of the jurors said that
Sanders should receive psychiatric help and that the jury felt that Sanders
should never be allowed to go free. The verdict was based primarily on the
testimony of the psychiatric witnesses.
State Attorney William D. Hopkins stated that Sanders would
be tried for the murder of Ann Wood. He made no comment on the verdict in the
Granger case. He was asked if there was precedent for conducting a second trial
when two murders were committed at the same time when the first jury declared
the defendant insane at the time of the crime, and he replied, “I don’t know. I
don’t know what you mean by precedent.” He said he did not know yet when the
second trial would be held. Judge W. May Walker had not yet ruled on Sanders’
fate. The judge could commit him to a mental institution. Sanders would remain
in the Leon County jail until Walker handed down his decision.
Sanders Sent to Chattahoochee
On October 14, 1968, Sanders was transferred to the State
Hospital at Chattahoochee. He had been in the Leon County jail since the day he
was arrested. Circuit Judge W. May Walker ordered Sanders committed because he
said his “discharge or going at large will be manifestly dangerous to the peace
and safety of the people, as well as to the defendant himself.” At the same
time, Judge Walker ordered an indictment charging Sanders with Miss Wood’s
murder dismissed because he said the jury’s verdict of insanity in the Granger
murder precluded another jury from trying the case on the same evidence with
the possibility of coming in with an “irreconcilable” verdict that he was sane
at the time. State Attorney Hopkins said he planned to appeal Judge Walker’s
Should the medical staff at the State Hospital find in the
future that Sanders is sane he will not be automatically released. Judge Walker explained that a full hearing
would be held at which medical experts would testify, the state and defense
attorneys would give arguments, and it then would be up to the judge to
determine whether to release him. Defense Attorney Wadsworth told the jury at
the trial he felt Sanders should be confined to the hospital for life. Jurors,
after rendering their verdict, said it was based on the feeling that Sanders
would be confined for life. (This is important to remember.)
After only about three weeks at Chattahoochee, hospital
official, Dr. C.A. Rich, said that Robert Scott Sanders was sane and should be
released. He said, “Sanders is dangerous to the welfare of the patients,” and
that he had already tried to escape.
Judge Walker strongly rejected any suggestion of freedom for the man who
was acquitted of two brutal murders by reason of insanity. Sanders’ attorney,
Murray Wadsworth, said he visited his client the week before and reported “he
is no more trying to get out than the man in the moon. He is probably happier
than he has ever been in his life. He is ten times better off than he was in
the county jail. He put on 12 pounds in the first three weeks he was there. He
knows he needs treatment, and he wants treatment.”
Dr. Rich, who had examined Sanders before the trial,
testified for the prosecution that he found Sanders to be at no time insane.
Sanders was committed to the hospital on October 14 and interviewed by the
hospital staff on November 7, “at which time it was the staff’s opinion that
there was no evidence of any major organic psychiatric disorder which would
undermine the patient’s competency or make necessary his psychiatric care and
treatment at this institution,” Dr. Rich said in his letter to Judge Walker.
Trial for the Murder of Miss Ann Wood
Attorney Hopkins’ appeal of Judge Walker’s earlier decision
must have been successful, because in October 1971 Sanders was tried for the
murder of Ann Wood. The verdict ended up being the same as the first trial, but
some new information was revealed. The victim had suffered a flesh wound by
gunshot and was stabbed 66 times.
A surprise witness for the state, Mrs. Patricia Strickland,
testified that she and a companion, Johnny White, drove into the Blue Sink area
around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1967. “When we pulled in John said there were two
bodies there,” she said. “I only saw one body. We were there about 15 seconds,
then we immediately backed up and drove to town where we called the police.”
She said White called from a phone booth in front of the Leon County
courthouse. Police officials testified that they received a call about 11:45
p.m. The defense questioned whether the caller was White. During the first
trial of Sanders for the Granger murder, the defense maintained that the caller
was a man identified as Harold Copp, (or Cope), a “known sexual pervert,” who
had been seen in the Blue Sink area, and who had a high effeminate voice, which
corresponded with the caller’s voice. Strickland said the reason White did not
identify himself that night was because he was married at the time, and he felt
it might be embarrassing for it to be known he was at the Blue Sink with her.
On 13 November 1971, Judge Ben C. Willis recommitted Sanders
to Chattahoochee, “held and cared for as an insane person, and not to be released or
allowed to go at large without the consent of this court.”
At this time, we should familiarize ourselves with something
called The Baker Act.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows for involuntary
institutionalization, (72 hours), for evaluation and determination of the
status of loved ones in need. It can be initiated by judges, law enforcement
officials, physicians, mental health professionals, and close friends and
relatives. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State
representative, who sponsored the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, referred
to as The Baker Act.
There are several possible results concerning the patient
after an examination. The patient could be released into the community. The
patient could be involuntarily committed to treatment. The patient could
voluntarily consent to treatment. Some of the reasons for involuntary treatment
are there is reason to believe that the person is mentally ill, the person
refuses a voluntary examination, or the person is unable to determine if an
exam is needed. The main point is that there is the likelihood that without
care or treatment, the person will cause bodily harm to themselves or anyone
else in the near future.
Not covered under the Baker Act are developmental
disability, intoxication, conditions manifested by antisocial behavior, or conditions
manifested only by impairment of substance abuse.
Upon passing of the Baker Act, Attorney Jon Caminez was
named the first Baker Act Examiner.
Release of Robert Scott Sanders and the scapegoating of Mr. Caminez
Jon Caminez examined Sanders in July 1973, concluded that he
was dangerous, and denied him release. In April 1974, after three days of
hearings where he found Sanders to be a “walking time bomb,” Caminez stated
that he intended to transfer Sanders to another facility. He stated that he
felt Sanders had reached “maximum benefit” from his time at Chattahoochee.
Sanders, on the other hand, let it be known that his goal was to be released
and go live with his father, who was now in Texas, and help him run a lumber
In June 1974, the management of the
Chattahoochee institution quietly released Sanders without having a court
hearing. Sanders indeed went to his father’s home in Texas. but for whatever
reason, that arrangement did not last long. Soon Sanders was on his way back to
the Florida Panhandle. He got a room in a halfway house in Pensacola and found
a job as a security guard. Mostly he worked unarmed at a Pensacola library, but
he also served as an armed guard at a Rodeway Inn.
Circuit Court Judge Ben C. Willis
and State Attorney Harry Morrison found out about the status of Sanders and had
him taken into custody and transferred back to Chattahoochee for examination.
Sanders was picked up while making his rounds on 18 Feb 1975. At the time of
his arrest, Sanders was not armed. M.W. Mackey, the operator of the Southern
Patrol Service, said he hired Sanders upon the recommendation of Robert Hughes,
a counselor at the Florida State Vocational Rehabilitation Center. No
background check was performed before Sanders was hired.
Sanders had been living at the
Halfway House, 1201 W. Hernandez St. while employed as a security guard.
At the subsequent sanity hearing in
Tallahassee, one psychiatrist testified that Sanders was dangerous and should
be kept under close supervision. Hervey Cleckley of Augusta, GA, also a
psychiatrist, testified that Sanders had a personality disorder and apparently
had not overcome sadistic tendencies and contempt for his mother. Cleckley
considered an authority on personality disorders, wrote the book, “Three Faces
of Eve”, a study of a woman with three personalities that was made into a movie
starring Joanne Woodward. A psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. William Merrill
Corry Wilhoit of Pensacola, testified that Sanders was no longer a threat to
The HRS counselor who approved the
hiring of Sanders as a security guard used “very bad judgment,” and was
suspended for five days without pay, according to HRS secretary O.J. Keller.
Former Baker Act Hearing Examiner Jon Caminez said it was
clear the Florida Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services violated state
laws in the premature release of Sanders. He made the statement on his return
from Chattahoochee where he approved and sent to the committing court a plan to
release June Byrley, a Bartow mental patient found temporarily insane in the
slaying of her newborn baby. Caminez was fired by the Cabinet over the Sanders
controversy and was relieved of the post officially on April 1.
“The release of Sanders without a hearing and without a
court order is more than just bureaucratic bungling,” Caminez said. “It is
apparent the intent was there to circumvent both the committing court and the
Caminez outlined his part in the
Sanders release in a letter to Gov. Reubin Askew, pointing out that:
March 15, 1974, he wrote Judge Willis, with a copy to HRS counsel James
Mahorner, that no release was to take place without court authorization.
May 1974, in a telephone conversation with Mahorner, he had no objection to a
transfer for Sanders to a halfway house but said another hearing would be
necessary and the state attorney and Judge Willis must approve the release.
June 1974, he advised State Attorney Morrison of his conversation with
Mahorner, which prompted a letter from Morrison to HRS informing the agency the
hearing examiner’s order could not be construed as authorization to transfer
Sanders to a halfway house.
“That was my last contact with the Sanders case in my
capacity as hearing examiner,” he wrote the Governor.
So, in the aftermath of all this,
Jon Caminez was blamed for the untimely release of Sanders. He didn’t take it
lying down, however. He was publicly berated by Governor Rueben Askew for
saying that Sanders was armed when he was working and fired from his job on
April 1, 1975. After the Governor discovered that Sanders indeed was working as
an armed security guard on occasion, he apologized to Caminez. Caminez was
still out of a job as Baker Act Examiner, but he had a long-distinguished
career as an attorney and passed away in 2016.
From the Tallahassee Democrat 16 April 1976; Sanders was
freed from Chattahoochee and moved at the state’s expense to live with his
mother and stepfather in Ketchikan, Alaska. He had a convalescent work release
from the Gateway Community Mental Health Center in Ketchikan for vocational
rehab at a cabinet shop. Mr. and Mrs. Bjorklund, his mother and stepfather,
were already clients there. Their address was 1939 Tongas Ave., Ketchikan, AK.
The Okaloosa News on 16 Dec 1976 reported that Sanders was
working in his stepfather’s carpentry shop. His stint as an armed security
guard triggered two major changes in Florida law. Courts now have jurisdiction
over the release of mental patients and private security guards must pass
background checks and be licensed by the state.
Sanders was released into the custody of his mother, Ann Bjorklund. His
stepfather’s name is Peter Bjorklund. Someone in Florida sent newspaper
clippings that caused a stir in the community. Sanders was a subject of
discussion on a local talk radio show.
Well, there it is. A man kills two teenage girls for no
reason and receives no real punishment for his crimes. I don’t know whatever
became of Sanders. I have searched all the records I have access to. He may
have passed away. He would be around 77 years old now. Maybe he lived the rest
of his life without getting into trouble or causing any further pain.