By Bob Heist
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.