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SUNSHINE CRIMES: Do you know who killed 2 men in Charlotte County 34 years ago?

"Enough time has passed. Come forward," says one victim's daughter, who was just 16 when her father was found beaten and shot in a boat in Placida back in 1990.
Harry and Stanley
Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 14, 2024

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Behind every face and every action, there's a name. The search for those names is where the journey begins.

Fox 4's Senior Reporter Kaitlin Knapp is on a mission to get to know the names we know, and perhaps find the ones we don't, along with the detectives working in the same communities you call home.

In Fox 4's new series called "Sunshine Crimes," we are going across southwest Florida to tell the stories of people waiting for justice.

In Charlotte County, we're talking about not one, but two murders. Detectives believe there could be more than one killer and they're possibly still in Florida.

OTHER SUNSHINE CRIMES:

FINDING A KILLER: Lee Co. detectives still working to identify a Jane Doe and killer three decades later

CRACKING A COLD CASE: SWFL Crime Stoppers deals cold case playing cards to inmates

The murders happened in Placida — old Florida — about 12 miles south of Englewood.

Some go for the fishing, like Harry Billy Scott and John Stanley Smith.

"As a young teenager I can remember Harry in that particular area and I knew Stanley," said Major James Kenville with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

He says Harry and Stanley would take a mullet boat out on the water in Placida.

"Harry would hire him [Stanley] and pay him a few bucks to help pull the mullet nets," said cold case Detective Mike Vogel.

On October 9, 1990, they stopped at a fish house for ice and gas, before heading up to Lemon Bay. The area is surrounded by mangroves — and the site of the brutal killing.

"The day they were found I was out there, I was the fairly new detective," Kenville said.

Harry and Stanley were found near Don Pedro State Park off the coast of Cape Haze, beaten and shot.

"Harry was shot five times with two different times of guns," Vogel explained.

Vogel says though Stanley was only shot once, killing him was senseless.

"He was killed, in my opinion, for no reason," he said.

They say Stanley was mentally impaired, and had the mind of a child. Vogel believes Stanley happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — with Harry.

"It was suspected that he was associated with folks that were doing drug smuggling," Kenville said.

They were killed on a boat, so how does that happen in the middle of the water?

Vogel believes the killers had to be in another boat.

"We think the people in the other boat, we believe there was more than one person entered Harry’s boat and the fight ensued, if you will," Vogel explained. "We know the individuals had to get close enough to hit them."

When they were found, Stanley's body was in the water and Harry was in the boat.

It had rained, so evidence — blood evidence — washed away.

However, it doesn't mean they cannot get clues from other people on the water.

"They [boaters] identified a boat that they thought was fleeing the area because of the rate of speed that it was leaving," Vogel said.

That boat was possibly a green mullet boat with two people on it. Detectives searched up and down the coast, trying to find any trace of it.

"We’re still trying to find information about those individuals, whether they were involved or not," Vogel said.

About 10 years ago, Vogel says they went up to Levy County to do more interviews and continue to investigation, but said nothing came of it.

With no leads, detectives kept talking to people in the small fishing town, but fear is a strong emotion.

"So we think there are people who know what happened and who knew what happened back then, but were afraid necessarily to come forward because of fear of some sort of retribution if they told the police," Vogel explained.

Harry was allegedly into drug smuggling, and in a small town, word travels fast.

"I think a lot of the players, if you will, that were involved in that trade have passed on or they’re much older now," Vogel said.

Three decades later, Vogel is hoping the fear has washed away.

"The people who have information…who have information about the case are now hopefully willing to come forward and share with us," Vogel said.

As they wait for someone to come forward, they are turning to technology.

"We’re looking back at the evidence that was collected now to see if there was any that can be done — new with any of the evidence that was collected," Vogel said.

In 2022, Vogel sent fingernail scrapings from Harry and Stanley to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to see if they get any matches. They got a partial DNA profile from one of them.

"We started taking a hard look at this one [case] in the past few months," Vogel said.

When asked if Vogel believes they are close to arresting someone, he said it's hard to say.

"We’re hoping that we get, from this, we get some new leads that will put us in the right direction," he said.

"You have two families that have been tore apart that’s been haunting them for all these years," Kenville said.

Those families are still waiting for justice, like Melanie Scott-Fowler, Harry's daughter.

She was only 16 when her dad was killed, and describes Stanley as sweet and kind.

"I got sick to my stomach and threw up, and because I knew Stanley probably tried to protect my dad," she said. "You got a beef on my dad, that’s one thing, but how do you kill someone who is mentally challenged like Stanley was?"

It's those thoughts that still bother her to this day. And as days go by, she hopes someone will give detectives information — maybe someone too scared to say something 34 years ago.

"I have no animosity. You kept quiet, you covered your behind, I get it. Understand. Respect it. But enough time has passed. Come forward."

Melanie Scott-Fowler, victim's daughter

For now, all Vogel can do is push ahead, wait for DNA results, talk to people and hope one of those efforts will crack the case.

"We’re not going to give up trying to find you, so you might as well come forward and let us resolve this," Vogel said about the killers. "It’s time to pay the piper. You know what you did. You know why you did it, you’ve gotten away with it for this many years."