Real Name: Lawrence 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 from his wife, Donna, was final, 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 he had been stalking her and her sisters.
On May 2, 1992, Larry and Melissa were in Dade City, Florida, for the weekly rodeo. He and his partner won the team-roping competition and split a $350 prize. The rodeo finished late that night; at around 2am, Larry and Melissa went out to have breakfast with a friend. The friend was dropped of at 4am; authorities believe they arrived at Larry's trailer at around 4:15am. 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 her or Larry, Earlow decided to go to Larry's trailer. He called the sheriff after seeing no activity in it. He and a deputy entered 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 his guns was missing.
Initially, authorities focused on Melissa's ex-boyfriend; however, he claimed to have had an alibi on the morning of Larry's murder. Authorities then focused on Melissa being responsible; however, neither her family nor Earlow could believe this. Earlow believes that someone followed them to Larry's trailer and killed him. He believes that the killer 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. Donna believes that Melissa and Larry got into an argument and that she killed him. Authorities, however, are uncertain if she was directly responsible for his murder or if she witnessed it and fled.
Melissa's family is convinced that her ex-boyfriend killed Larry and later her as well.
Suspects: Police believe Melissa to be the only person who could have got close enough to Larry to kill him. She has been seen several times since his 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 she was abducted and murdered and that her ex-boyfriend was involved.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 24, 1993 episode.
Results: Unresolved. Melissa and Larry are now believed to have been killed by Joe and Danny Cerezo of DeLand Florida. Danny was Melissa's ex-boyfriend. According to Joe, Melissa is buried somewhere in the Green Swamp of central Florida. Neither were charged in the crime due to the uncooperation of the Polk County State Attorney's office. Joe died in November 2008, but before his death, he confessed to the crime adding that Danny shot the first shot. Danny suffers from throat cancer but still goes about his daily business as a forest ranger for the Florida Forest Service.
In 2014, Danny was indicted for lying to a Florida grand jury in relation to this case.
- Larry Costine on Unsolved.com
- 1992 Costine Slaying Case Suddenly Hot
- Danny Cerezo Indicted on Perjury Charges
- Facebook link
- Larry Costine on Find a Grave