Our card this week is David Camperetto, the King of Hearts from Florida.
David was 30 years old in the early 1990s, had multiple jobs that earned him a steady
income, had a loving family to go home to, and was someone who kept a smile on his face
But on October 16th, 1993, all of that changed.
David vanished, only to be found burned inside his car right outside of his hometown.
For the last 29 years, his killer has remained unidentified, and the motive behind the crime
is no closer to being understood than it was nearly three decades ago.
Detectives say they can solve this case, they just need help from you.
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.
On Saturday, October 16th, 1993, around 8 o’clock that night, a woman named Diana,
who worked at a Publix grocery store in Fort Myers, Florida, noticed her co-worker, David
Camperetto, acting strange.
Normally, Diana knew David to be a happy-go-lucky kind of guy.
When he’d clocked in for his shift at 4 p.m. earlier that day, he’d been in a good
mood and had spent most of his downtime that night using the store’s phone to catch up
But right after 8 p.m., Diana noticed David got really bent out of shape after he’d
received a brief phone call.
After he’d hung up the receiver, Diana could tell that David was visibly upset, shaking
and crying, I mean to the point where the rest of his co-workers could tell that something
was definitely wrong.
Diana and David were pretty close friends, so she asked him what was going on and why
he was spiraling, but the only thing he would tell her was, quote,
Something is going to happen.
Someone is waiting, and I’m afraid to go outside the door.
What do I do?
Diana was shaken up by David’s bizarre response, and unfortunately she couldn’t calm him down
or get any more information from him before he abruptly clocked out of his shift early,
took off out the store’s front doors, and ran to his blue Ford Tempo parked in the parking
After David walked out, Diana and all of his other co-workers didn’t know what to
They didn’t call the police because they weren’t really sure what to even tell them.
Instead, they just figured David had something personal come up and they’d learn all about
it the next day when he came into work.
But that wouldn’t happen, because a few hours later, the Lee County Emergency Dispatchers
received a 911 call from a man walking on the outskirts of the county in an area known
as Lehigh Acres.
The call came in around 11 p.m., and it was disturbing.
The guy told authorities that he wanted to report a car fire in a vacant field.
Here’s Lee County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Sergeant Marcia Sutphin.
The vehicle itself was actively engulfed in flames when the 911 caller noticed the vehicle,
and by the time fire arrived, it was fully engulfed.
As soon as the firefighters put out the blaze, they checked what was left of the car for
The front seats and back seats were empty, but when they opened the trunk, they found
a man’s lifeless body crumpled up in the fetal position.
In that moment, the fire department realized that they were probably dealing with a crime
scene, so they called in homicide detectives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to
When those deputies arrived, they quickly determined the car was a Ford Tempo, and it
was registered to 30-year-old David Camperetto from Fort Myers.
The question investigators couldn’t answer right away, though, was, was David the man
in the trunk?
And if so, who had brought him so far outside of town to kill him in such a heinous way?
According to Sergeant Sutphin, detectives at the scene processed David’s car for clues.
Obviously, fire destroys much of what it touches, but it doesn’t destroy everything, and we
were able to collect some things from the scene.
Luckily, they were able to collect several hairs and fingerprints from the charred remains,
and they next tried to canvas the nearby streets and neighborhoods for eyewitnesses, but struck
His vehicle was located out on a pretty desolate area of Lehigh Acres.
At the time, it was not as built up as it is today.
After the body from the trunk was transported for an autopsy, it didn’t take investigators
long to positively ID the victim as David.
Now, because this case is still active, the Lee County Medical Examiner and the state
fire marshal’s office have never released David’s official autopsy or the arson investigation
report, so I’m not sure what state his body was in when he was brought in.
We also don’t know how the fire was set inside the car, like if gasoline was used or what.
That’s information that only the investigators and the killer or killers know.
The only information that has been released publicly is that the pathologist determined
David died of smoke inhalation, which meant that he was still alive and breathing when
he was forced into his trunk and then the car was set on fire.
Shortly after identifying his body, authorities broke the news to David’s parents, Patsy
Learning what happened to their son devastated the couple.
You see, ever since they’d gotten married in the late 1950s, Patsy and Sal had tried
their hardest to conceive naturally.
Viable pregnancies had been a challenge for them, so they decided to try adoption instead.
And in 1963, their dreams came true when they adopted David as a baby.
At the time, staff at the hospital had actually discouraged the couple from choosing David
because they said he’d been born with severe medical issues, including a deformity that
doctors labeled as clubbed feet.
But none of that mattered to Patsy and Sal.
They fell in love with David and took him home.
Patsy actually told Fox 4 News, quote, I didn’t see nothing but his face.
And right then he was my baby, end quote.
During middle school and high school, the couple learned the depth of their son’s disabilities
went beyond just physical.
David was socially challenged as well, which caused him to be shy and sometimes naive.
Patsy told Fox 4 that David had trouble differentiating between what most people would consider to
be factual information and what was fantasy or people teasing him.
Everyone who knew David back then described him as, you know, a meek, kind, very helpful
Many people actually struggled to call him a man, you know, a young man, because his
demeanor was very much that of a young, young adult or a teenager, if you will.
Despite his challenges, though, his parents said David grew up as a fairly normal kid.
He had friends, participated in extracurricular activities, graduated from Fort Myers High
School, got his driver’s license and maintained several part-time jobs.
But not long after entering the working world, though, his parents noticed that David started
to hang out with and be influenced by a group of young men who were sort of a rough crowd
and frequented strip clubs in the Fort Myers area.
Patsy and Sal discouraged their son from joining in with what they considered to be inappropriate
activities like that, but technically David was an adult.
He could do what he wanted.
Over time, Patsy and Sal noticed David spent more and more nights at strip clubs with his
friends and he was getting very close with several of the dancers.
Sergeant Sutphin and Crimestoppers spokeswoman Trish Rout says this never settled well with
his parents, but in reality, it may have been his only outlet to have interaction with women.
This caused his parents some concern, obviously.
They had some worry about the people that he would encounter and these types of places,
but they knew it made David happy.
So while they cautioned him about going to these places, they understood why it made
David happy, being that his intellectual delays made it difficult for him to find companionship
on his own, if you will.
He went because the girls would pay attention to him.
He had not a violent or bad bone in his body, but in the strip club type of situation, girls
are going to pay attention to you because they’re looking for money.
But at the end of the day, David was just looking for somebody to pay attention to him.
Although it wasn’t the ideal place to be, that’s where he chose to be because he had
He was making conversational connections with these women and that made him happy.
Detectives looking into his murder learned quickly that strip clubs and David’s friends,
which included some dancers, were going to be the best place to start to try and piece
together a timeline of his life and habits.
What they learned was that according to David’s parents, he’d woken up on the morning of
October 16th, gotten dressed for the day, done some things around the house, ate lunch,
and then he headed out to one of his friends named Gary Hughes house around two or three
o’clock in the afternoon.
When detectives interviewed Gary, he told them that yes, David had stopped by his place
and then the two of them had hung out and talked about going to the strip club later
Gary was a DJ at a club called Paradise and during their conversation, the men had talked
about how the business had been kind of dead lately and the dancers weren’t getting as
much work as they normally did.
About a quarter to four, Gary said that David left his house and headed to his job at Publix.
When detectives questioned the staff at the store, including Diana, they learned about
that bizarre phone call that David had gotten around eight o’clock and how he’d taken off
Diana also told investigators that before David’s departure around five o’clock, he’d
been talking on the phone with other people and she had a name.
She said that that person may have a lot more information.
Diana told detectives that a few hours before abruptly leaving his shift, David had been
speaking on the phone with a woman named Michelle that she knew was a dancer at a local strip
About two hours after that, the store’s phone records show that David had made another phone
This one to a DJ named Larry Gore, who worked at a strip club called Mermaid’s Lounge.
When questioned about their conversation, Larry told investigators that David had called
him just to catch up and chat about their day.
He said the call hadn’t lasted more than a few minutes before David had to hang up
and do some things at work.
Now, Diana emphasized to police that David speaking on the phone with strip club dancers
and DJs while he was at work actually wasn’t unusual.
She said that the store’s manager and all of the other staff knew David didn’t have
the same social skills as everyone else, and so they let him do some personal stuff like
take calls while he was clocked in, just so he could have that interaction with people
that he said he cared about.
David regularly made phone calls with women who worked as dancers because he considered
them his friends.
He would often talk with Diana about how he ran errands for the women, sometimes bought
them or their kids meals, and would deliver packages for their bosses who owned the strip
Now, detectives knew David left Publix sometime right after 8 o’clock.
The next time they could account for David’s whereabouts before his murder was around 9
A man named Wayne Woodring told authorities that he’d received a phone call from David
asking him to meet up at Burt’s Strip Club off US 41 in Fort Myers.
We don’t know where David would have placed that call from.
All we know from speaking with investigators is that he didn’t go home to make that call.
We know he didn’t use the phone at Publix to dial Wayne, and at the time he didn’t
have a cell phone.
Now Wayne agreed, and by 9.30 the men were hanging out at Burt’s, catching up and admiring
the dancers while eating at the snack bar.
Obviously, this part of the story and everything that Wayne is saying doesn’t really add up
with how David’s mood was when he left Publix abruptly.
Diana said that David seemed super distraught, but then according to Wayne, like an hour
later David’s chumming it up with him at Burt’s.
There’s definitely some discrepancy here, and investigators noticed it too.
Dancers at Burt’s and at least one other bouncer told detectives that between 10 and 10.30
they saw David hanging out, but then around 10.30 he left with a man walking behind him,
and it was a man that they knew had not arrived with David.
What happened to David after he left is a little TBD.
There were some reports that David went to Mermaid’s Lounge after leaving Burt’s, but
most of the reports say he was actually there before.
Either way, police went to Mermaid’s to follow up.
A dancer named Jennifer, who worked there, who knew David well, told investigators that
she’d seen the 30-year-old come in, but right away she noticed something was off.
Here’s audio from an interview an original detective on the case had with Jennifer.
When Jennifer told police that David seemed off while briefly inside Mermaid’s Lounge,
that forced investigators to ask the question, was David really under duress while at Mermaid’s
and Burt’s, regardless of the order in which he went to the bars?
Or was he just telling Jennifer the same thing that he told his co-workers at Publix?
No matter how they sliced it, to the detectives it seemed like David had very different interactions
with people shortly before his murder that made figuring out his state of mind harder
Regardless, though, detectives were eager to speak with the strange man that Jennifer
said she’d seen walk into Mermaid’s with David, the same guy that he had left Burt’s
The problem was, no one working at either one of those clubs seemed to know who the
guy was, or at least they weren’t willing to give up his name.
Jennifer told deputies that all she knew about the guy was that on occasion she’d seen him
at another strip club in Fort Myers called Paradise Club.
David coincidentally worked part-time for Paradise as a sort of side hustle.
He would basically be what you would consider maybe an intern in the strip club world.
He ran errands for the owner, a guy named Jamie Carrillo, and would visit with the dancers.
The only other information the staff at Mermaid’s could tell investigators about the night of
October 16th was that while David had been there, he’d gone to the bar, used the bathroom,
and then asked a bouncer if a dancer named Tiffany was working, which the bouncer said
Another dancer who was on shift, though, confirmed to police that David had been looking for
this Tiffany woman for at least a week or two leading up to that night.
Both Jennifer and this other dancer said the entire time David was in the lounge, he’d
been accompanied by that strange man they vaguely recognized.
Jennifer said that at one point the guy pushed David and told him to hurry up.
The other dancer who saw David told investigators that her interaction with him had been brief,
but he did say something about getting a phone call.
Did you see him walk out the door?
Talked to me for a few minutes.
He was in a hurry.
He was saying something about a conversation he had just had.
He didn’t say who.
He just said a conversation on the phone.
After 10.30 p.m., Lee County investigators could not account for David.
No one reported seeing him after that.
The only thing detectives knew for sure was that by 11 p.m. that night, the 911 caller
in Lehigh Acres reported David’s car on fire.
So that left a really narrow window of time, about 30 minutes, for David to be taken from
Fort Myers to Lehigh Acres and his car set ablaze with him still alive inside of it.
Current Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcino still has a hard time comprehending how the
killer or killers worked so fast without being seen and why they chose to commit such a violent
crime against David.
This case, it’s disturbing.
Here we have a mentally challenged adult who is burnt in his car.
So I mean, I can’t even believe, you think about that alone, you know, homicide is, it’s
It’s, there’s no excuse.
I mean, we can go through many different reasons why it’s wrong in every which way.
When someone shoots someone, it’s pretty quick.
When someone burns to death in a car, it’s completely different.
Back in 1993, the one place detectives dug into further for leads was the Paradise Club
where David had worked part-time.
And there was someone who stuck out immediately, the owner of the club, Jamie Carrillo.
Turned out, Jamie was sitting in jail facing federal drug charges on the day that David
was killed, and authorities theorized he might have had motive to want David dead.
According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the DEA busted Jamie Carrillo several months
before David’s murder and charged him with drug trafficking.
The accusations were that Jamie was involved in smuggling and illegally transporting drugs
throughout Fort Myers, possibly through his businesses and associates.
When investigators probed into Jamie’s past a little more, they learned that David sometimes
would make deliveries for him to and from Paradise Club.
And he may have unknowingly been partaking in illegal activity, but just didn’t realize it.
Detectives’ suspicions were that David was too naive to know and understand that Aaron’s
Jamie sent him on might not have just been David doing some nice favors.
The problem was, authorities were never able to prove their suspicions.
Here’s Sergeant Sutphin again.
It’s just another one of the many theories that have come up over the years.
And you’re right, Jamie Carrillo was the owner of the Paradise Club.
And in the months prior to David’s murder, he had been arrested along with several of
his associates for some drug-related trafficking charges, I believe it was.
And during the initial investigation, there was some speculation that perhaps David had
been running some errands for Jamie, maybe related to the drug aspect of his life.
But again, it’s another theory, another speculation.
The reason investigators back in 1993 gave so much thought to Jamie possibly being involved
was because they learned that Gary, the Paradise DJ who was David’s friend, who he had hung
out with that afternoon before the murder, had visited Jamie in jail the morning of October 16th.
Several strip club dancers who’d spoken with Gary later that night told detectives
that Gary said he told Jamie everything would work out for him.
And the people who’d put him in prison and ratted him out to the DEA were going to, quote, pay.
Now, the names of the individuals who’d cooperated with federal authorities were never
made public, though, so it’s unclear if perhaps Jamie and Gary thought David was one
of those informants.
To this day, even the Lee County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t know that information.
Eventually, investigators had to move on from their suspicions about Gary and Jamie because
they just didn’t have enough evidence or cooperation from witnesses to pursue them
as persons of interest.
Over the years, detectives have spent numerous hours upon hours upon hours interviewing witnesses
and trying to identify suspects and gathering background information on people associated
with David and associated with the clubs, trying to identify who would want to harm
David in this way.
And unfortunately, to this date, a viable suspect has not been identified.
The next theory detectives considered was whether maybe David had gotten too friendly
with a strip club dancer and one of those women’s boyfriends had gotten mad and decided
The sheriff’s office told us that several months before David was killed, he’d actually
been attacked at a strip club in Sarasota.
A dancer’s boyfriend or brother had assaulted him and David ended up pressing charges for
But ultimately, that case was dropped.
So the idea that David might have gotten too close to a dancer, even though he was considered
harmless, might have rubbed some guy the wrong way.
Trish Routt with Southwest Florida Crimestoppers thinks that if this was the case, though,
and that’s what prompted someone to murder David, they more than likely did not understand
that he had disabilities.
David would not have hurt anybody ever.
He probably wouldn’t have even spoken a foul word about somebody.
So whoever did this, I’m assuming did not know David’s situation and the challenges
that David faced, the disabilities that he had, again, the social awkwardness that he
had because he was not deserving of anybody to execute any level of violence against him,
more or less burning him to death in a vehicle.
The only other lead investigators could look into was why he was searching for the dancer
But again, that avenue of investigation fizzled out, too, because no one from the club scene
would help detectives find out who she was, if Tiffany was even her real name or if she
really worked at the club in Fort Myers at all.
Today, the sheriff’s office is hoping that they can work with what little bit of physical
evidence they have in this case to help narrow down a potential suspect pool or at least
have more information to go on, like DNA, for example.
Investigators back in 1993 did find hair in David’s car and near his body that current
investigators still have.
They were also able to pull some possible fingerprints.
In an interview with our team, Sergeant Sutphin confirmed that at least some of the hairs
came back as belonging to David.
But there were also hairs that belonged to an unknown person, as well as other items
that contained DNA.
What those items are, though, is something Sutphin can’t go into detail about.
Well, I’d like to completely describe the entire crime scene.
I can’t describe everything because that could be detrimental to corroborating testimony
from people who may come forward later.
Right now, what cold case detectives are banking on is forensic testing to help them identify
a potential suspect.
But even if they get that, they’ll still need the public’s help to generate conversation
and get people who were around in 1993 to start talking.
They believe that there is much more to the story than what science can prove.
And they need actual people who saw David, anyone that he was with, or who overheard
conversations related to his murder to come forward.
We’ve always got to leave the possibility out there that the theories that have come
forth are just simply that, theories, and there may be something else completely unknown
out there that we don’t know yet.
This is not an impossible case to solve.
It is possible, what we just need the right information from the right person and the
right time to come forward is now.
If there are people that are still around that know, you’re much older now, and the
way that you viewed the world 25, 30 years ago is much different than I’m sure the
way you perceive the world now.
People that have information may now be parents or grandparents, I mean, totally different
stage of life where, you know, I get when you’re younger, you don’t want to get
involved and you’re trying to just live your life.
You don’t want to be involved.
But now as a parent or maybe even a grandparent, you look at life through a different set of lenses.
David’s parents are getting older and are no longer in good health.
A lot of detectives who have worked on this case over the years wished they could have
solved it before they retired.
Now it’s up to Marsha Sutphin and others in the department to get David justice and give
his family some answers.
Before their time on this earth is gone, they want to know that they can have some closure
and some justice.
Nothing’s going to bring David back, but just the not knowing, all these years of not knowing,
at least having justice will be able to allow them to conclude their lives at some point,
at least knowing, with that little bit of peace.
Because until they know what happened to David, until they know who’s responsible for David’s
murder, you just can’t live life the same way.
That’s their son, their only son.
David’s case is one that so many law enforcement investigators in Lee County hold near and
dear to their hearts.
And it’s one that the current sheriff says he makes a priority every single day.
I’m going to find you.
I’m going to find you.
The message is loud and clear.
We’re going to do everything possible, and we’re never going to stop trying to find out
who killed David Camperetto.
So many people want to see this killer behind bars, and I’m one of them.
If you have any information about the murder of David Camperetto, please call the Lee County
Sheriff’s Office and Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.
Or you can submit a tip anonymously on their website, southwestfloridacrimestoppers.com.
The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.
To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit thedeckpodcast.com.
So what do you think, Chuck?
Do you approve?