Authorities say blood and phone records link the accused to the murder of a Tierra Verde couple.
By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN and LEANORA MINAI
Published January 14, 2004
Richard Van Dusen, 58, and his wife, Karla Van Dusen, 49, were found Nov. 26 in a driveway off Old Memorial Highway in Hillsborough County. Both were shot, and Mrs. Van Dusen was stabbed. William James Deparvine, right, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
TAMPA - Aided by DNA test results from a blood-splattered steering wheel and telephone records from bay area cell towers, authorities early Tuesday arrested a St. Petersburg man in the Nov. 25 slaying of a Tierra Verde couple.
William James Deparvine, 51, who had purchased a restored truck from Richard and Karla Van Dusen, was arrested by authorities at 3 a.m. Tuesday. He had claimed another man had accompanied the couple during the sale.
He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and armed carjacking.
Deparvine is accused of shooting Richard Van Dusen, 58, and shooting and stabbing Karla Van Dusen, 49. The couple was found Nov. 26 lying face down in a driveway off Old Memorial Highway.
Early on, Deparvine had been cleared as a suspect, but detectives refocused on him after a background check revealed a criminal past.
DNA test results showed blood matching that of Deparvine and Richard Van Dusen was on the steering wheel of one of the cars the Van Dusens had been driving the last time they were seen alive, according to police reports.
Detectives pieced together the Van Dusen's last hours alive by tracing toll road records and locating the cell towers that transmitted telephone calls made on the Van Dusen's cellular telephones.
They are not looking for the unidentified man that Deparvine says was with the Van Dusens during the transaction.
"I couldn't say if he exists or not," said Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter. "But we're convinced the individual we have in custody is responsible."
According to authorities, Deparvine contacted Richard Van Dusen on Nov. 23 to take a look at Van Dusen's 1971 Chevrolet Cheyenne truck he had listed for sale in the St. Petersburg Times. The advertisement listed the truck for $13,700, or partial trade.
Detectives said Deparvine told them he and Van Dusen agreed upon a purchase price of $6,500 and he gave Richard Van Dusen a deposit of $1,500 and a blank bill of sale to be completed and notarized before the final sale.
Deparvine told authorities that Richard Van Dusen gave him a receipt for the deposit, but he destroyed it after obtaining the bill of sale.
However, authorities say that on Nov. 25, Richard Van Dusen told a friend over lunch that he had completed and notarized the bill of sale for $6,500 to ease the buyer's tax burden, but the actual final sale price would be either $13,000 or $13,500.
After that late lunch with the friend, detectives pieced together this scenario:
At 4:39 p.m., Richard Van Dusen's Sun Pass toll transponder from his 2001 Jeep Cherokee tripped the Pinellas Bayway bridge as he entered Tierra Verde.
At 5:19 p.m., a phone call was placed from Karla Van Dusen's personal cell phone to a lawyer in South Carolina who was a family friend. The cell tower for that phone call is in Tierra Verde.
At 5:45 p.m., a call from Karla Van Dusen's personal cell phone was placed to Richard Van Dusen's business cell phone. The cell tower for that phone call is in downtown St. Petersburg.
At 5:50 p.m., a call that lasted 27 seconds was placed from Richard Van Dusen's personal cell phone to Deparvine's cell phone.
However, Deparvine told detectives that the Van Dusens arrived at his St. Petersburg apartment at 5:30 p.m., with Richard Van Dusen driving the 1971 Red Chevrolet and his wife driving the Jeep Cherokee.
During an interview with detectives, Deparvine said he met the Van Dusens in front of the apartment complex and rode in the passenger seat of the truck with Richard Van Dusen to the back of the apartment complex to park the truck. Richard Van Dusen then got into the front passenger seat of the Jeep Cherokee and Deparvine got into the rear driver's side seat.
Deparvine said he handed Richard Van Dusen a 9- by 12-inch manila envelope with the $5,000-cash balance. He said Richard Van Dusen gave him a bill of sale for the $6,500 and a packet of information pertaining to the 1971 Chevrolet Truck.
Deparvine told detectives that the men then got out of the Jeep Cherokee, and Richard Van Dusen walked to a waiting red truck similar in make and color to the truck that Deparvine had just purchased from Van Dusen. Deparvine described the driver of the waiting truck as a white male, in his 50s, balding with a grayish/brown beard and wearing aviator-type sunglasses.
Deparvine told detectives he saw Richard Van Dusen hop into the passenger side of the waiting truck and leave the parking lot, followed by Karla Van Dusen in the Jeep Cherokee. They were going to check out a 4-wheel-drive Jeep belonging to the unknown white male, Deparvine said in investigative reports.
Deparvine said that about 45 minutes later, Richard Van Dusen called him from his cell phone to tell him that he had forgotten to leave him four painted oil filters for the truck and that he'd get with him after the Thanksgiving holiday.
However, authorities said, Karla Van Dusen made a phone call from Richard Van Dusen's personal cell phone to her mother, Billie Farris, at 6:18 p.m. Records show the cell tower is in Safety Harbor.
During the conversation, Karla Van Dusen told her mother that she was following Richard Van Dusen and the "guy" who bought the truck to finish the paperwork.
At 6:37 p.m., there was another phone call from Karla Van Dusen's personal cell phone to the attorney's office in South Carolina. That call lasted 29 seconds. Records showed the call was transmitted by a cell tower in Oldsmar, which placed Karla Van Dusen within 2 miles of where their bodies were later found.
On Dec. 24, Pinellas County Sheriff's detectives searched Deparvine's unit in the Park Plaza Apartments, 425 2nd St. N in St. Petersburg.
Investigators were looking for a 9mm handgun and ammunition, knives, blank bill of sale receipts, a $6,500 bill of sale dated Nov. 25, keys to the Van Dusens' Jeep Cherokee, telephone bills, classified ads for cars, and clothing and shoes with forensic evidence, court records show.
They seized paperwork, including a handwritten note; tennis shoes, sandals, slippers and boots; and a razor blade from a wallet, court records say.
In an interview with the Times last week, Deparvine proclaimed his innocence.
"They were nice people," he said of the Van Dusens.
Sheriff's officials would not say whether they think Deparvine is responsible for other crimes, only that they are "currently sharing information with other agencies," said spokeswoman Debbie Carter.