The Tampa Police Department’s Dive Team was on campus early Wednesday morning to aid University Police in the ongoing investigation into the Feb. 9 slaying of former USF student and staff member Ronald Stem.
The Dive Team was combing the bottom of the retention pond next to the Life Sciences building, which is 10 feet at its deepest, in search of anything that may help with the investigation. The search began around 9 a.m. and was finished before noon.
“Many times when people flee a scene in panic they discard things that are of evidentiary value,” UP Capt. Bob Staehle said.
Staehle said police have already extensively combed land areas looking for clues.
“One of the things that we do in any investigation is we fan out and look for any possible signs of evidence,” Staehle said. “So what we’re doing is just eliminating this area here.”
Staehle also said the video footage of the three suspects showed them having a trajectory “toward the engineering lot or toward (the retention pond),” which is why it was being searched Wednesday.
“What we are doing is leaving no stone unturned, whether it’s above water or below water,” Staehle said.
According to UP spokesman Sgt. Michael Klingebiel, if the dive team found anything, the information would not be made public because the investigation is still ongoing.
Though some kinds of clues might be rendered useless after being under water for two weeks, Staehle said there is a possibility TPD may still find useful clues.
“It all depends on what that item is, what the degradation factor would be of being exposed to water,” Staehle said. “If it’s something of paper and ink comes off it, then that degradation would be very serious. If it’s something of plastic or metal it would have no effect in that short period of time.”
Staehle added he did not know exactly how the time underwater may or may not affect fingerprints, but said there were other ways to use clues if they were found.
“We look for more than just fingerprints,” Staehle said. “We look for anything that could be relational.”
According to Staehle, no other bodies of water are scheduled to be searched.
Klingebiel said information would not be released to the public on whether anything was found during the search.
However, he said UP has almost finished talking to all the residents of Magnolia Apartments, and it is still working to identify the three suspects caught on film fleeing the scene of the crime.
He added UP has received tips from the community and is continuing to look into them.Staehle said UP has been and is continuing to work hard on the Stem case.
“Our officers and our detectives have been working relentlessly on this,” Staehle said.
UP responded to a 911 call late Feb. 9 and found Stem dead on arrival in Parking Lot 24. He had been fatally shot in the upper body. They have been working in coordination with TPD since then.