Tony Joiner, former UF football standout, arrested in wife’s murder

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Tony Joiner was taken into custody in Lake Wales and charged with second-degree murder in the 2016 Valentine's Day shooting death of Heyzel Obando. [The Ledger]

By Bob Heist
The Ledger

More than three years following the suspicious death of Heyzel Obando in Fort Myers, a former Haines City and University of Florida football star has been arrested in his wife’s murder.

Earl “Tony” Joiner, 33, was taken into custody Saturday after the Polk County Sheriff’s Office executed an arrest warrant obtained by the Fort Myers Police Department.

Joiner was being held with no bond in the Polk County Jail on Sunday, charged with second-degree murder. He will be transferred to the Lee County Jail following first appearance.

According to reports, Obando was found fatally shot inside her Fort Myers apartment complex home on Valentine’s Day 2016. Her death had remained unsolved prior to the allegations now facing Joiner.

Two months following the discovery of her body, Fort Myers police ruled Obando’s death a homicide, according to reports. She was 26 at the time of her alleged murder.

The Fort Myers News-Press first reported Joiner’s arrest and there were few details released by police.

The couple had two children, girls now ages 3 and 6, according to a News-Press story. They have been under the care of their grandmother, Isabel Martinez of Miami, who was granted permanent guardianship in 2017.

“Now that he is arrested, I hope he feels the weight of the law,” Martinez told the News-Press.

A star safety with the UF football team from 2004-2007 under head coach Urban Meyer. In his final season, Joiner, a 2004 graduate of Haines City High School, 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.

As a junior in 2006, Joiner led all of UF’s defensive backs with 59 tackles. Florida went on to beat Ohio State for the BCS national championship to end that season.

As a senior, Joiner had 64 tackles and two interceptions, but ran into legal problems when he was arrested and accused of breaking into a towing company impound lot to remove his girlfriend’s car.

The company owner later said it was a misunderstanding and that Joiner had arranged earlier to pay the bill. Felony charges were dropped, but Meyer removed Joiner as a team captain — a role he didn’t regain until the final home game against Florida State.

Correction: Hernandez did not play on the 2006 UF football team as previously reported in an earlier edition of this story.

Bob Heist writes for The Ledger in Lakeland.

33 COMMENTS

      • What does some players actions after they left the program have to do with his rightful place in the ring of honor as the greatest producing coach we ever had? So he is to be held responsible for others sins which he had no control over? So any former player do anything wrong in their life its their college football coaches fault? Hogwash, sounds like a lot of liberal marxist philosophy to me! Men are responsible for their own sins, not for someone else’s transgressions!

        • Actually some of the players he recruited had many red flags during the recruiting process, especially Hernandez, but he chose to ignore them. It’s also well known how much he covered for their misdeeds while he was coaching them, so yes he is somewhat responsible for leading them on a path which led to their eventual downfall. He’s not responsible for them committing murder, but he could’ve done things while he was coaching them to try to deter them from continuing to go down that path. You’d be surprised what a coach’s influence can have on players’ future lives, but allowing them to basically do whatever they wanted as long as they were winning, was certainly not the example to be setting. That just makes the bad behavior and entitlement even worse. He’s definitely not the only one to blame, but he’s certainly one influential person in their lives that could’ve had a better impact. Sadly from what I can tell, he’s the only coach in history to have 2 eventual killers on the roster at the same time.

        • Daz:

          Look up the word “enabler” in the psychological context. Hernandez assaulted the bouncer at the campus bar before he ever played a game. And then there is also the little matter of the shooting by a “Hawaiian or Hispanic male, 6′-3″, 240 lbs, with a lot of ink,” or words to that effect.

          Meyer did NOTHING with regard to either of those incidents. Further, remember the “broken program” remark to Stephon Diggs and his family, when it was he (Meyer) who left it that way?

          Ring of Honor? When pigs fly my friend, when pigs fly.

      • Slimey, scumbag, mercenaries with no real connection to the school, and who recruit negatively based on the state they themselves left the program in, should not even be considered. Meyer score perfectly on all three counts.

        The day his name goes up is the day I get perp walked for smearing it with the substance it would so richly deserve. You know, the stuff that makes good fertilizer.

    • i hope something good can come out of this awful period. perhaps wecan follow a testing to know more about how many guys we bring in are sociopaths (kevin Dutton has a quick and dirty one), and then maybe an ability to monitor, protect, maybe even reduce the symptoms, and find a better balance. ssme sociopaths are part of life, and increasingly so in modern times imo, but this is a big challenge for our world. since we clearly had a past issue with it, its time to get busy.
      forgive this brutal question, but was urban himself a sociopath?, lots of things not so good about that era that did produce a lot of wins. sometimes its scary to look back. could be me reading too many books

  1. Dont you love how the media propagandize thru pics in stories? they use a photo of the girl all smailing and him looking straight faced and threatening. I guess he never smiled in his life and she was never bitchy! They purposefully try to subtly convince you he is a nasty murderer of this so sweet girl. He may be guilty as sin, but I disdain how they slyly try to brainwash you! If they were really unbiased media they would show 2 pics of them both smiling, but they arent unbiased and that wouldnt fit the narrative!
    Again, anonymous wrote it!!!

    • The media haven’t been unbiased since 1895 (not a typo) when Yellow Journalism became a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. The term originated in the competition over the New York City newspaper market between major newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. It has only become even worse with the advent and propagation of today’s Social Media.

      Don’t blame Meyer for their transgressions, though. If he had wanted talented thugs on the team, we would have been sanctioned by the NCAA well before this upcoming season, mostly over academic shortcomings, which doomed Pell’s teams. (I actually saw their GPA’s because I had access to UF computers back in the early 80’s. There were dozens of football players whose GPA’s were under 1.0 and even more under 2.0.) Joiner is 33. “Nuff said. Not Urban’s fault.

    • Add in the fact that they should have simply used his mugshot. I’m a conservative in my political views, but I probably have a biased opinion of Meyer and his philosophy, especially after one of his players shot an employee of mine in his head at point blank range, and it was covered up.

    • The media reflects the beliefs, philosophy, and acceptable behavior of our society. It’s pervasive in our culture to be unfairly critical of those we dislike while supporting, defending, or remain silent about the shortcomings of those we like.

      “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” — Dr Martin Luther King Jr

  2. Daz, I am in total agreement with everything you just said, and probably everything you didn’t say as well. Phil and Sparky — there’s a new book out by Mark Levin regarding the topic of media irresponsibility and bias. First half is a little over-intellectual, as is his style, but the second half gets down to the nitty gritty. I recommend it.

    • Read “Even Republicans Wear Sneakers”. It exposes ESPN in particular. I don’t trust anything I read in the media or see on TV, and especially Social Rumoredia . Like Denzel Washington said: “If you don’t read the papers , you’re uninformed. If you do, you’re misinformed.”

    • I’m in complete agreement with how biased and full of outright lies the media is. Reporting the news seems to have reached an all-time low. Now the media makes the news what they want it to be.
      That doesn’t change my opinion of Meyer and the culture he helped create. He held different people to extremely different standards. And his actions helped foster some of the bad apples that he brought in. His moral compass was broken at an early age…if he ever had one.

  3. This discussion is telling of things gone away in our times. When we as a society are willing to accept behavior that would not be accepted previously by people needed to play a game (role, any sport or job) we are fans of. We as a society have become desensitized to bad behavior. So much so we want to excuse that behavior if we feel their past excuses their current actions. I was brought up wrong is wrong, you are accountable for your actions. The news media now has no unbiased view and no integrity which is a reflection of societies lost moral compass.

      • My granddad a depression era man too young for WWI and too injured for WWII told me the young people (my parents and my generation) were being desensitized by during his time TV. I heard his words but they didn’t have meaning for some time. maturity on my part. My mom spanked me once as a youth for pointing a toy gun at a police officer while driving down the road. I was playing cops and robbers from some show I’d seen. I was 4 or 5 and she explained that law enforcement has a hard job to do protecting people from those that choose to break the law and may not have the luxury of taking the time to decide if one was playing a game or not. There was a period of explaining and until I understood the rules my toy was taken. With parents turning there kids loose with video games at very young ages without constant supervision and guidance these guys are desensitized to things that many of us wish we had never seen yet they are not capable of understanding the consequences. Remember when the drinking age went from 18 to 21? I think because our society has moved from a agriculture/working one where youth had to work within the family for survival to one where our youth are “protected” aka pampered and spoiled but fed better quality foods they develop physically faster but mentally much slower. The body is capable earlier of things yet the grey matter between their ears is slower. I grew up on a small horse farm and had responsibilities some of my friends didn’t some of them are dead from bad decisions they made. I look back now and all were raised in the “I don’t want my kids to have it as bad as I did mentality and absent parents who thought it was ok their kid did a little of this or that” until it was a problem. So disturbing to see the number of crimes now.

  4. All I know is that Spurrier won with guys that went to class and behaved themselves. He threw a number of people off the team for their transgressions and nothing has ever come out regarding a cover up in order to win. Many coaches cover for bad players. No Florida player committed a murder while on the team, but there is no denying that every institution has had their share of thugs…Miami, FSU, Ohio State, Nebraska, etc. I don’t know anything about this girl but the media certainly isn’t trying to bias anyone. The facts are that Joiner was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. Maybe she was hard to get along with so them break up with her. Don’t shoot her in HER apartment. Sounds like a domestic dispute where a jealous boyfriend goes to get his girl back and if he can’t have her, then no one can. Truly sad but not for Joiner, for the girl. Nobody deserves to be murdered. He made his choice and he was adult enough to know right from wrong. This is not a reflection on Gator Nation but more of a reflection on society no matter who reports the news.

  5. How about this … when we as fans no longer put winning above character and when the administration no longer puts winning above character and when the coaching staff no longer puts winning above character, THEN maybe we can stop hearing about these kinds of stories. It has to start somewhere. It won’t start with the coaching staff as there is lots of salary on the line to produce winners …. at any cost.

    If fans (and consumers) stop tolerating “win at all costs”, the administration will take notice because it will affect revenue. And when the administration starts noticing, coaches will feel the impact.

    Bottom line, the ultimate responsibility falls on Tony Joiner (if guilty). But his influences along the way (parents, teachers, coaches, friends, etc) helped to mold him into he became.

    STOP recruiting and allowing bad character kids to come to UF, even if it means better athletes end up at FSU or UGA. Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL schools refused to recruit bad character kids???? Maybe if as a society, we expected more from future STUDENT-athletes …….. we’d get more 🙂

  6. A LOT OF PhD’s in psychology on this chat. And Joiner has been gone from Florida for 12 years? Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” Looks like the media and the poster boys here have convicted Joiner, danged Meyer and come up with a solution to behavioral issues by college athletes. Recruit nothing but choir boys. Strange but I never read about all the ex-Gators who have gone on to lead very productive lives after football/basketball. Read about Louis Oliver, the Pouncey twins, James Bates or Jevon Kerse, among many, many others. Oh, wait. Good deeds and being a good person after football don’t make the media anymore. It’s not “news” that an ex-Gator has given back to his/her community.

  7. Does anyone remember Huey richardson? Ex-Gator and 1st round NFL pick in 1991. Failed in NFL but not in life. Look him up to see how he returned to college after the NFL, got his master’s and is now a multi-millionaire with Merrill-Lynch–and he gives back a LOT to his community and inner city programs. Guess his story–at least for media sensationalism– ends with “NFL 1st rounder out of football after only 3 years.”

    • Cattrick: For that story to work, Huey Richardson has to want to talk about it with Robbie or Pat. When he first started his career on Wall Street, we approached him to do a story. He declined, we moved on and never went back to it. We’ll certainly give it another go this summer. Thanks.