Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office seeks leads on 32-year-old killing

Published: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 14:00 PM.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is re-opening a cold case to identify the killer of Bert Eldon Gross, a Fort Myers man who packed his pickup truck and left his home on Feb. 22, 1981 for a fresh start in Phoenix. The next day, the 42-year-old was found dead near picnic tables at a rest stop on westbound Interstate 10 in Crestview. He was beaten and shot with his own firearm.

Investigators developed a suspect initially, but the person passed a polygraph test and has died, according to a Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Chronicle video. Serial killers Ottis Elwood Toole and Henry Lee Lucas also were considered suspects but were later ruled out, according to a 1984 report in the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Okaloosa County sheriff’s investigators are resubmitting evidence, including Gross’ clothing, to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab for more analysis. They hope that any DNA that’s not Gross’ will be found.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office, 651-7400, or Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers, 850-863-TIPS.

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