See also: Melissa Jo Schafer.
William Baer was arrested on July 1, 2020, for the 1999 home invasion robbery and murder of 39-year-old Saad Kawaf in Jacksonville, Florida. Baer had worked at the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office as a Detective for 27 years before retiring. At the time of the murder, Baer was engaged in surveillance against Kawaf as part of an ongoing drug investigation. Baer thus learned that Kawaf had yet to make a weekly bank deposit of $30,000, and was keeping this cash in his home.
On May 17, 1999, two suspects, a male and a female, entered Kawaf’s home to steal the $30,000. Kawaf was tied up in the garage and stabbed to death by the male suspect. Kawaf’s wife heard the commotion in the garage, and when she went in, she was grabbed and tied up by the female suspect. Ms. Kawaf bit the female suspect and obtained some of her DNA this way. She then told the female suspect that the cash was hidden in a kitchen cabinet. The female is believed to be Baer’s then-wife, Melissa Jo Schafer.
DNA was obtained from blood on the suspect’s shirt; blood on the kitchen counter; finger clippings from Kawaf; and water bottles and soda cans from Baer’s garbage. The FGG investigation was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), under the direction of Lori Napolitano.
Both defendants have pled guilty in Duval County Circuit Court. Schafer pled guilty in return for her testimony against Baer. She was sentenced in March of 2022 to 30 years for second-degree murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and aggravated battery. Baer was sentenced in September of 2021 to life in prison on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and aggravated battery.
Many people whose cases Baer worked on during his time with the Jacksonville County Sheriff’s Office, from 1979 to 2002, will now be filing post-conviction appeals.
First Coast News Staff. “Warrant: Retired JSO Homicide Detective, Ex-Wife Fatally Stabbed Convenience Store Owner Over Money.” First Coast News, July 9, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/crime/warrant-says-retired-jso-homicide-detective-ex-wife-mutilated-convenience-store-owner-over-money/77-e61c0084-6729-4650-82ef-f54c63bac19a.
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Scanlan, Dan. “Ex-Wife of Former Jacksonville Cop Gets 30 Years for Role in 1999 Murder of Store Owner Saad Kawaf.” Florida Times-Union, March 25, 2022. Accessed January 13, 2023. https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/courts/2022/03/25/melissa-jo-schafer-sentenced-30-years-1999-jacksonville-florida-murder/7143114001/.
Smalls, C. Isaiah II. “The Murder Took More Than Two Decades to Solve. A Retired Detective Was Behind it, Cops Say.” Miami Herald, July 30, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article244606062.html.
Sokmensuer, Harriet. “Fla. Store Owner Was Killed 21 Years Ago in Robbery – and Former Detective Arrested in Cold Case.” People, July 6, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://people.com/crime/fla-store-owner-killed-robbery-detective-arrested/.