Real Name: Lawrence Costine
Nicknames: Larry Costine
Location: Lakeland, Florida
Date: May 3, 1992
Details: Larry Costine was a rancher who owned a stretch of land near Lakeland, Florida handed down over several generations. He lived with his uncle Earlow on the ranch, and later started seeing Melissa Jo Sermons before his divorce to his wife was finalized, keeping the relationship secret for the time. Melissa's ex-boyfriend also worked for Earlow, and by all accounts he was not taking the breakup well. Melissa's mother claimed that the ex-boyfriend had been stalking Melissa and her sisters.
On May 2, 1992, Larry and Melissa were in Dade City, Florida, for the weekly rodeo. Larry and his partner won the team-roping competition and split a $350 prize. The rodeo finished late that night; at around 2 am, Larry and Melissa went out to have breakfast with a friend. The friend was dropped of at 4 am; authorities believe the two arrived at Larry's trailer at around 4:15 am. No one is certain as to what happened next.
On May 3, Melissa's family contacted Earlow after she did not return home. The next morning, with no sign of either Melissa or Larry, Earlow decided to go to Larry's trailer. Earlow called the sheriff after seeing no activity in the trailer. Earlow and a deputy entered the trailer and found Larry's nude body on his bedroom floor; he had been shot four times in the head with a handgun. Authorities found no evidence of forced entry or a struggle; however, one of Larry's guns was missing.
Initially, authorities focused on Melissa's ex-boyfriend; however, he claimed to have had an alibi on the morning of the murder. Authorities then focused on Melissa being responsible; however, neither Earlow nor Melissa's family could believe this. Earlow believes that someone followed the couple to Larry's trailer and killed him. He believes that the individual then abducted Melissa and killed her elsewhere.
Authorities believs that Melissa was the only person that could have gotten close enough to Larry to kill him without a struggle. Larry's ex-wife Donna believes that Melissa and Larry got into an argument and that Melissa killed him. Authorities, however, are uncertain if she was directly responsible for the murder or if she witnessed the crime and fled.
Melissa's family is convinced that her ex-boyfriend killed Larry and later killed Melissa as well.
Suspects: Police believe Melissa Jo Sermons to be the only person who could have got close enough to Larry to kill him. She has been seen several times since the murder, particularly in Florida, Texas and Kansas, possibly working as a truck driver. Larry's father believes she has snuck home several times to visit her mother and sisters. However, her supporters believe that Melissa was abducted and murdered and that Melissa's ex-boyfriend was involved.
Extra Notes: This segment ran for the first time on November 24, 1993
Results: Unresolved. Melissa Jo Sermons and Larry Costine are now believed to have been killed by Joe and Danny Cerezo of DeLand Florida. Danny Cerezo was Melissa's ex-boyfriend. According to Joe Cerezo, Melissa is buried somewhere in the Green Swamp of central Florida. Neither of the men were charged in the crime due to the uncooperation of the Polk County State Attorney's office. Joe Cerezo died in November of 2008, but before his death, he confessed to the crime adding that it was his brother, Danny, who shot the first shot. Danny Cerezo suffers from throat cancer but still goes about his daily business as a forest ranger for the Florida Forest Service.
In 2014, Danny Cerezo was indicted for lying to a Florida grand jury in relation to this case.
- Larry's case on Unsolved.com
- 1992 Costine Slaying Case Suddenly Hot
- Danny Cerezo Indicted on Perjury Charges
- Larry Costine at Find a Grave