ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $10,000 reward for tips leading to arrests in the cold case murders of two men whose remains were found in a burned SUV.
The bodies of Charles Durden, 27, and Steffon Larry, 26, were found inside the torched Dodge SUV in November 2016 in St. Augustine. Nearly four years later, deputies hope to bring justice and closure to the men’s families.
Det. Mark Kapelka, the lead detective on the case, told News4Jax the case went cold weeks ago. So now he wants to hear from those who have phoned in tips anonymously about the case over the years, and he hopes the reward money will get people talking.
“We believe the motive for the crime was either robbery or revenge,” Kapelka said.
The vehicle was found engulfed in flames near Fred Waters Way and Spring Street about 1 a.m. Nov. 16, 2016, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The Medical Examiner’s Office later ruled their deaths homicides and the causes of their deaths were ruled gunshot and arson.
Though investigators collected numerous tips about the case, they never got enough concrete details to secure an arrest warrant.
“At the end of the day, the 26- and 27-year-old young men didn’t deserve to die the way they did. We are simply asking for someone to come forward who can be a voice to them and obtain justice for the family,” the detective said.
Durden’s mother did not wish to speak with News4Jax, saying reliving the experience would be too painful. Larry’s mother, Sandra Thompson-Wright, said she’s still looking for answers.
“I don’t know his last thought,” Thompson-Wright said. “That bothers me because my mind races to think, ‘What was his last thought? What was he doing?’ I don’t know and that bothers me. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”
After reviewing the case, Kapelka said, it became clear that some of the original anonymous tipsters likely have information vital to catching these men’s killer or killers. He’s asking those people to call back, either through Crime Stoppers or the Sheriff’s Office.
“There’s also a distinct possibility that the suspects involved in this incident are not from the immediate area, so anybody who has information about the crime or those persons involved, we highly encourage you to reach out,” the detective said.