Warrant for ex-JSO detective paints grim picture of deadly attack

William Baer, Melissa Schafer charged with murder in 1999 stabbing death of Saad Kawaf

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo: William Baer
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo: William Baer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than two decades after a Jacksonville business owner was fatally stabbed in the garage of his Deerwood home, the arrest warrant for the former detective now charged with his murder paints a disturbing picture of the attack against Saad Kawaf and his wife.

Kawaf, 39, who owned Forest Discount Store, was killed during a robbery in May 1999. According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, DNA evidence collected from the attack later pointed to William Robert Baer Jr., 64, a retired JSO officer, and his then-wife Melissa Schafer, 50.

The pair were arrested separately last week and charged with murder.

According to the arrest warrant, Kawaf was leaving his home around 9 a.m. on May 17, 1999, when his wife, Samar Kawaf, heard screaming and commotion coming from the garage. Their home was in the gated community of Deerwood on the city’s Southside.

Samar opened the door leading to the garage and saw her husband fiercely struggling with a man, who stabbed him. She tried to run over to help, but she was attacked by a woman in the garage. During her fight with the woman, Samar bit the woman’s arm until she bled.

The woman threatened that they would shoot Saad if Samar didn’t give them all of the money they had. Samar gave the woman about $500 from her purse, but the woman said she knew Saad makes a deposit at the bank every week and that he hadn’t gone to the bank yet so “they still had the money.”

Samar and the woman went back into the home and the man came in and held a knife to Samar’s throat, demanding the cash. As she was held at knifepoint, Samar told the woman where to find the money -- about $30,000 -- in the kitchen cabinets.

The woman then duct-taped Samar’s mouth and taped her to a kitchen chair before she and the man ran off with the money.

Samar was able to free herself from the chair and found Saad barely conscious on the garage floor. He’d been stabbed multiple times.

Saad later died at the hospital.

Investigators said they found blood drops in the kitchen and found blood on Samar shirt’s collar and DNA traces under Saad’s fingernails.

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That blood was matched to Baer last month, thanks to a DNA profile police got from a soda can that was recovered from Baer’s trash. They were initially pointed in Baer’s direction because of genetic genealogy analysis of the DNA from the scene.

That same genetic analysis pointed to Schafer as the woman involved in the attack, and investigators said her driver’s license photo from the time of the murder matched the description Samar provided at the time of the woman.

Baer was with the Sheriff’s Office for 27 years, joining in 1975 and retiring in 2002. At the time of the murder, Baer had been an intelligence division detective and police said Baer knew Saad through work.

Baer is being held without bond, pending a July 23 arraignment. Schafer is still in jail in Missouri, awaiting extradition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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