Marissa Karp Murder: A Decade of Investigation Pays Off

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At the highway's 52-mile marker, they tossed a garbage bag into a nearby canal and hoped alligators would eat the contents.

In the following days, word spread that Ingraham had murdered the girl after an argument, witnesses would later tell police. Potential fall guys were discussed. Ingraham disappeared for three days after the incident, witnesses said.

A neighbor at Sue's Efficiencies would later state she'd heard a muffled gunshot echo from the back apartment on the night in question. A search of the cramped room eventually turned up a bullet hole in the fridge.

Gary Karp had little preparation for his new role: the father of a violent-crime victim.

Before Marissa's death, all he knew about criminal investigations came from television, where cases wrapped before the credits. His thoughts about the death penalty didn't push much deeper than vague opposition.

Tragedy struck elsewhere, to other people, he thought. In 2001, he watched with the rest of America as Washington, D.C., police searched for Chandra Levy, a missing 24-year-old government intern later found murdered. The woman came from a family like his own. "These types of things didn't happen to nice Jewish families," Gary says.

At first it all seemed like a nightmare. When he finally accepted the situation, Gary tried to burrow beneath work at the soap store. But he couldn't think about anything except the crime. In 2002, the business closed.

From the beginning, he eyed the investigation with suspicion. It had taken Collier County a month to identify the body. Gary learned investigators had contacted Miami-Dade, but not Broward, about matching their Jane Doe with known runaways. There was also confusion about who was quarterbacking the case. Marissa was found in Collier County, but police believed she had been killed in Broward.

Also, the body had been dumped off I-75. There were no exits along the road, but no one had bothered to pull camera footage or interview staffers manning the toll booths the night of the dump.

"Listen, I'm not a cop, but you would think there was one way in and one way out — it would be common sense," Marissa's brother, Josh, says. "Because of half-assed bullshit, we lost so much groundwork. So many different things could have made a difference."

Demanding progress reports from tight-lipped cops, Gary pinballed between the Collier County Sheriff's Office and the Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO). It didn't make him many friends.

"He got a lot of people pissed off," remembers Ray Carmody, a retired BSO detective who was one of the first investigators to work Marissa's case. "You would get something going and he'd want to know right off the bat. He would just keep going after it. I would keep telling him the same thing: 'If I tell you right now, it could wreck the case.' "

Gary was driven, perhaps, by regrets about the way he had dealt with his daughter's grief over her mother's death. "I could have done things differently. I could have been a better father, although I don't think I was a bad father," he says. "If you're an explosives technician, there's not a hell of a lot of room for a mistake. It's the same thing with parenthood. One mistake, you go boom."

Month followed month with no arrests. Gary decided to change his tactics. He started working cops like cops work suspects — bluffing his way into new details when talking with investigators by pretending to know more than he did.

It helped that so many cops from two departments were working different pieces of the case. If a BSO detective mentioned a person of interest named Ingraham, Gary would pivot to Collier.

Through stolen bits and pieces, Gary cobbled together a rough sketch of Marissa's last months. He learned about Sue's Efficiencies and Coakley. In all his years in South Florida, he wasn't sure if he'd ever met a Bahamian. When he saw where his daughter likely died, his mind endlessly staged the possible details of her last moments.

A year after the shooting, the investigation seemed to stall. BSO investigators didn't get anywhere after a first pass at Coakley and other Bahamian associates. No one talked, and there was little evidence. Soon enough, Coakley left the country.

But nobody could talk Gary into quitting. He held yearly news conferences on the anniversary of her death. Each new week meant another round of phone calls to detectives. And he gathered thousands of court documents, including those from seemingly unrelated cases. Whoever killed his daughter was probably involved in other crimes, he reasoned.

"You always want to believe there is more than meets the eye," Gary says. "I just followed my hunches, which is what [cops] do."

When police walked through the door of the nondescript apartment in Sunrise just off Oakland Park Boulevard the morning of October 10, 2002, the living room looked like a slumber party interrupted by trigger play.

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson