110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 29, 2014 - 12:00:48pm
In late 1994, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office thought they had the man who abducted and killed 15-year-old Laralee Spear of DeLand after she got off a school bus April 25, 1994.
That man was Bobby Allen Raleigh, who was 19 at the time of Laralee Spear's shooting death. Raleigh was already in jail — incarcerated in connection with the homicides of two men in DeLeon Springs on June 5, 1994. Raleigh was later convicted of the drug-related murders of Douglas Cox and Tim Eberlin. Raleigh first shot Cox in the head, and then his gun jammed, so he used the gun barrel to beat Eberlin to death, according to court records.
In the summer of 1994, a jailhouse snitch, hoping to curry favor with authorities, told investigators Raleigh had confessed to killing Laralee Spear, Volusia County Cold Case Investigator Ralph Henshaw said.
Raleigh seemed like a good fit for the crime. He even drove a dark-colored pickup like the one that had been seen near the site of Laralee’s shooting, and Raleigh had used a gun to kill Cox. Laralee had been shot three times in the head.
In January 1995, after Raleigh was indicted in the Spear case, State Attorney Steve Alexander told members of the news media Raleigh may have been obsessed with the entire DeLand junior-varsity cheerleader squad, of which Laralee was a member, and perhaps with Laralee in particular.
"I think it's fair to say that he knew who everybody was on the junior varsity cheerleading team," Alexander was quoted as saying in an article published Jan. 19, 1995, in The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The Orlando Sentinel, on April 7, 1995, quoted Alexander as saying Volusia County investigators were searching in Wise County, Va., for a 9 mm gun that may have been used to shoot Laralee. Raleigh had a Virginia driver's license.
But Bobby Allen Raleigh was a red herring, Cold Case Investigator Henshaw now says. It turned out the jailhouse snitch's story was a fabrication, and Raleigh had an unassailable alibi. He could prove he was at an automotive business, getting the seats replaced in his truck, at the time Laralee was killed. The state attorney dropped the charges against Raleigh in Laralee’s death.
The false lead diverted a lot of attention from other avenues in the Spear case, Henshaw said.
"A lot of people thought this case was over when Bobby Raleigh was arrested," he said.
In the meantime, investigators had interviewed dozens of other possible suspects before zeroing in on Raleigh. One of them may have been the real killer.
"We may have very well talked to that person, interviewed that person," Henshaw said.
Had Raleigh obsessed over the cheerleading squad? Henshaw shrugged off that allegation.
He noted Raleigh confessed to the two DeLeon Springs murders, but has always maintained his innocence in Laralee’s death.
Usually, someone on death row is willing to trade information for a chance to live, and Raleigh has not offered, Henshaw said.
Now at Union Correctional Institution, Raleigh has tried to have his death sentence for the DeLeon Springs murders overturned — to no avail, so far. His second appeal in federal courts, after a series of denials in state courts, was denied in September 2013.
Henshaw continues the search for Laralee Spear's killer.
In October 1994, hoping it might help convince someone to come forward with information about their daughter's killing, David and Barbara Spear released a letter to God written by Laralee in February 1994, after she came home from a youth-group meeting at her church, The Sanctuary.
I have just come from church and have made a big decision. You are my one and only God. I will not make gods of things in the material world, but I will concentrate on You. I am now willing to give you everything, my all, and most of all, my love.
Lord, my love for you has grown & grown since I came to DeLand. Lord, I believe that you have put me here for a purpose. You have surrounded me with great Christian friends who will help me in my walk with you.
Lord God, I pray that you will be by my side for the rest of my life until I see your heaven. Lord God, I love you with all my heart & want to do what you want me to do.
Lord I know I need to be a better Christian in school & pray that you will help me with that also. Lord, in church we learned that you are the one to fear, not the people of this world for they can only hurt my body, but you can send me to hell. Lord, on judgment day, I want you to look at me and say, 'Oh yes, Laralee, of course you're going to heaven. You believe in me with all your heart.'
Lord God that is what I want. Lord, come into my life and never leave me or forsake me. I know that you will be here in my time of need. Lord God, I thank you for being there for me. I love you.
P.S I am going to pray at school tomorrow. Wish me Luck!"
Anyone who has any information about the death of Laralee Spear is asked to call the Volusia County Sheriff's Office at 386-254-1535, send an email to the Cold Case Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Crimestoppers of Northeast Florida toll free at 1-888-277-TIPS to make an anonymous report.
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