Ex-Florida player charged with murder in wife's 2016 death

Tony Joiner charged in the February 2016 murder of Heyzel Obando

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter, AP Author

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A former University of Florida football player, Earl Antonio "Tony" Joiner, has been arrested and charged with killing his wife in a case dating to 2016, police said.

A former safety at Florida under then-Coach Urban Meyer, Joiner was arrested Saturday on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of wife Heyzel Obando, the Fort Myers Police Department said in a statement. The body of Joiner's 26-year-old wife was discovered in an apartment on Valentine's Day.

Joiner played as a safety for Florida from 2004 to 2007 and was part of the team that defeated Ohio State for the BCS national championship in January 2007 to cap his junior year. He also was a one-time captain of the team.

Heyzel ObandoObando's last post on Facebook, one week before she died, showed the couple’s youngest daughter crawling. A few weeks earlier, she posted, "I got your baby," and professed her love for Joiner.

But Obando's friends said the couple fought often and the arrest did not come as a surprise. Court records show Joiner was twice arrested of physically assaulting Obando.

The murder went unsolved for three years.

Fort Myers Police said in the statement released on social media that investigators had worked closely with the state's attorney's office and with the Oxygen Television series "Cold Justice" on the case. The statement added that Joiner was taken into custody Saturday in Lake Wales in central Florida in a coordinated effort with the Lake Wales Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

The statement did not elaborate on what led to the arrest. Joiner was being held without bond Sunday in the Polk County Jail.

"You try your hardest to be prepared and you try your hardest to think of all the different ways to try and make the case stronger," said Kelly Siegler, a former prosecutor who stars in the Oxygen series.

The couple's two daughters are being raised by their maternal grandmother.

The reports noted that Joiner, as a junior player, led all of UF's defensive backs with 59 tackles. During his senior year, Joiner had 64 tackles and two interceptions. His final season, Joiner was teammates with freshman tight end Aaron Hernandez, who would eventually go on to play for the New England Patriots. Hernandez was later convicted of murder and killed himself in prison in 2017.

Joiner played for Meyer, who won two national titles at Florida and one at Ohio State. During Meyer's six years at Florida, there were 31 arrests of football players, according to an analysis by the New York Times.

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