The Coral Springs Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit is getting a reputation.
With the help of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab and their own Crime Scene Investigation Unit they’ve been able to dig through cold cases dating back for close to 40 years bringing justice for victims that never imagined that day would come.
Thanks to the advances in criminal technology specifically advances with DNA testing, many unsolvable cases have borne fruit after many had given up hope.
In the winter of 1990 a young woman named Ivelisse Beguerisse who lived in Sunrise was reported missing to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office by her husband after she didn’t return from shopping at the Sawgrass Mills Mall. The following day her car was found in the parking lot of the mall with two of its tires slashed. Her body was later found on the side of the road off 122nd Avenue in Coral Springs. She had marks on both of her ankles and wrists as if she was tied up, and sticky brown packing tape was found in her hair.
The case went cold for 23 years until the perseverance of Detectives Brian Koenig and Dan Cucchi, of the Coral Springs Police Department combined with updated technology led to a DNA profile that matched that of the killer.
Although this case led to closure it would never lead to justice for the Beguerisse family as the killer a man named Oba Chandler was executed by the State of Florida after being convicted for the murders of Joan Rodgers and her two daughters in an unrelated case that occurred in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1989, A year later in 1990 when Beguerisse was slain Chandler was living in the town of Sunrise which is less than two miles from the Beguerisse residence.
Using DNA profiles and genealogy websites has become a common thread between other Florida Law Enforcement agencies which have been highlighted on this blog previously.
Just this past November a story was posted about a 2001 Murder of UCF Student being solved by the Orlando, Florida police, and on the flip side an article posted in March of this year told of the reversal and ultimate exoneration of a 36year old conviction that was handled in Hollywood.
But the Coral Springs Police seem to stand out with many other cold cases being resolved through the hard work and determination of their Special Victim’s Unit paying off time after time.
Just last August, the same force of dedicated detectives made another arrest relating to another cold case that had gone unsolved for more than thirty years.
In October, 1987 a 27-year old female was brutally raped when an unidentified suspect entered her home late at night. The victim woke up to a man leering down at her as he stood over her bed.
Following the attack, the victim immediately contacted the Coral Springs Police after the suspect fled the area. The statement given in 1987 to detectives described an intruder wearing a dark blue or black ski mask with gloves covering his hands, claiming he had a gun. She went on to tell detectives that she was held down by the gloved hand assailant as he went on to rape her.
Fearing for her life she found herself in a position to only comply with his demands.
Forensic evidence was gathered from the crime scene and was sent by the Special Victim’s Unit to the Broward Sheriff’s Crime Lab for analysis. But at the time of the episode, the evidence collected was unable to link any suspects to the crime.
After more than thirty years, in March 2018, Detectives from the Special Victims Unit were assigned the cold case again and began methodically reviewing the evidence in the file. After their own evaluation they asked for help from the Broward Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab to have the forensic evidence tested again. Thanks again to advances in DNA technology, in May BSO’s Crime Lab advised there was a positive suspect from the evidence submitted that led to a DNA profile.
The profile was matched to a man identified as Frank Montana, who was residing in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Based on the findings of the investigation, an arrest warrant was issued by the Coral Springs Police.
After being arrested by a US Marshals task force the defendant was extradited to Broward County to face trial on the charges for the incident that occurred decades ago.
Montana’s criminal history is extensive including prior arrests in 1987 for burglary, sexual battery, first and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Hennepin County, Minnesota where he was also known as Frank Cruz. He was incarcerated for 15 years in Minnesota from 1988 to 2003.
Earlier in that same year before his conviction and sentence, he received probation in Florida on three counts of grand theft before making his way to Minnesota.
After his release from the Minnesota prison, he eventually was returned to the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections.
Less than a year after his release he again was arrested but only received probation in 2004 for the impersonation of a police officer during the commission of a felony that resulted in death or injury.
Montana had previously resided in Queens, New York, as well as in New York State’s Nassau County; Miami; Vero Beach; Fort Pierce; Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Tennessee.
In 2012 he was arrested for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon in Loudon County, Tennessee.
Upon being interviewed by the press after Montana’s extradition back to South Florida, Coral Springs Detective Ernesto Bruna stated “This is what every detective, every officer, every law enforcement agency wants… to give the victim closure.” He went on to say that the victim, who no longer lives in the Coral Springs area but still resides in Florida, was informed of Montana’s arrest.
“She was obviously very happy and relieved that we made an arrest,” according to remarks concluded by Detective Bruna.
The Coral Springs Police Department highlighted the arrest on their Facebook Page in August 2018.
But that’s not where the continuing story of the success rate of the Coral Springs Special Victims Unit for cold cases ends.
A woman who read the Facebook post and all the publicity surrounding this latest arrest decided to approach the department to see if they would reopen her own rape case which occurred 36 years ago.
Next month’s article will continue this topic and discuss her personal terrifying story.
Michael Cohen is a Fort Lauderdale based Criminal Defense Attorney specializing in the defense of federal crimes.
Follow his Twitter feed to read similar blog articles of this type relating to crime and punishment in the South Florida area.