Florida woman confesses to stabbing 81-year-old mother, hiding body after argument, police say

VERO BEACH, Fla. — A Florida woman’s plan to visit a nail salon with her elderly mother turned violent Monday when she stabbed the older woman to death and stashed her body in the family’s garage, according to police.

Crystal Marie Williams Kohler, 38, of Vero Beach, is charged with first-degree murder in the March 9 death of 81-year-old Carmelina Kohler, according to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. She is also charged with grand theft auto and driving with a suspended license.

Jail records show Kohler, who was the adopted daughter of Carmelina Kohler and her husband, is being held without bond. Carmelina Kohler is survived by her husband and two other grown children.

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Carmelina Kohler’s family,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said at a March 10 news conference. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

At that time, the sheriff declined to describe Crystal Kohler as a suspect in her mother’s death, but said she was the last person to see her mother alive. Crystal Kohler was officially charged with murder the following day.

“An 81-year-old person does not deserve to have their life ended like this,” Loar said.

Loar said Carmelina Kohler was reported missing around 9 p.m. the evening of March 9 by her husband. She was last seen alive around 11 a.m. that day in the company of her daughter.

“We continued to look for the missing 81-year-old Ms. Kohler throughout the evening, as well as Crystal Kohler,” Loar said. “Late into the evening, our detectives were able to locate Crystal Kohler without being in the presence of Ms. Kohler, Ms. 81-year-old Kohler.”

Watch Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar discuss the slaying of Carmelina Kohler below, courtesy of WPTV in West Palm Beach.


LIVE NOW: Daughter of missing woman arrested, Indian River County Sheriff's Office holds news conference.

Posted by WPTV on Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Court records indicate that Crystal Kohler was found early March 10 at the Fort Pierce Marina, on a boat owned by her ex-boyfriend. Her mother’s blue 2018 Chrysler Pacifica van was found in a parking garage at the marina.

Crystal Kohler was taken in for questioning, at which time detectives discovered she had cocaine in her possession, the sheriff said. She was arrested and charged with grand theft auto for the van, which had been reported stolen by her father, and the suspended license charge.

Around 10 a.m. March 10, she told detectives where Carmelina Kohler’s body could be found. Investigators and crime scene technicians descended on the family home.

The victim’s body was found hidden beneath blankets and boxes in the garage.

‘She looked like a bum’

According to Crystal Kohler’s arrest report, Carmelina Kohler’s husband told police he had last seen his wife at their home in the Diamond Lakes neighborhood as he left for a doctor’s appointment. When he returned, his daughter was there but his wife was not.

“Crystal told (her father that Carmelina Kohler) had sent her home to change her clothing because she looked like a bum,” the arrest report says. “Crystal changed her clothing and left the residence.”

The man told detectives he thought it was unusual that his daughter, who had moved back in with them the week before, was driving his wife’s van, but said he assumed she was heading to a nail salon to meet up with her mother.

CBS12 News in West Palm Beach spoke to workers at the nail salon, who said the business was closed on March 9.

Carmelina Kohler’s cellphone was found that night by a stranger in a part of town in which she would not normally have business, the report said. Her worried husband called police to report her missing and the van stolen.

The man told deputies his daughter has a drug addiction and that he and his wife were having issues with her lying to them and stealing from them in the weeks before his wife’s death.

During the investigation, deputies spoke to Crystal Kohler’s ex-boyfriend, who said she showed up unannounced and distraught at his home around 4:30 p.m. March 9.

“He asked her what was wrong, and she told him the less he knew the better,” the arrest report says.

The man said Crystal Kohler told him she’d had an argument with her mother. He said he knew none of the details of the argument but knew Kohler was being kicked out of her parents’ home.

The ex-boyfriend told detectives he went to Walmart with Crystal Kohler, to whom he gave $120. She talked about leaving town on a Greyhound bus, possibly for Tennessee, the arrest report states.

He also gave investigators permission to search his cellphone, which contained a text message Crystal Kohler sent him at 12:25 a.m. March 10.

“Hey, I’m going to need a ride to u know where in the morning,” the text message read, according to the report. “I had to ditch the thing I was in; the cops started calling me. Text me back when u can, I’m turning my phone off for the night. Love u.”

Information from Crystal Kohler’s ex led police to the boat where she was spending the night.

An argument turns deadly

Crystal Kohler initially would not talk to detectives about her mother’s whereabouts, though she admitted she knew her mother was missing and said she’d spoken to her sister about it, the arrest report states.

When she first sat down with Indian River County investigators, she told them she and her mother had gone to a nail appointment and that her mother later drove her to visit her ex-boyfriend.

The timeline she gave in her interview did not match with other witnesses’ statements, however, nor did it match evidence already uncovered by detectives, the report says.

Read the entire arrest report below.

When confronted with the discrepancies, “Crystal became upset and requested an attorney,” a detective wrote.

Early the morning of March 10, as investigators were trying to secure a cadaver dog to aid in their search for Carmelina Kohler, a jail officer called to say Crystal Kohler wanted to talk.

In the second interview with detectives, Kohler admitted her mother was dead in the garage at their home.

“She did not want to elaborate on the details of how her mother came to be deceased, but she did admit that she was responsible for her death,” the arrest report says.

Crystal Kohler told detectives she was “helping her mother move boxes out of the garage when her mother made a comment that sent Crystal into a rage,” the report says. They fought for several minutes, during which Carmelina Kohler was screaming.

Crystal Kohler showed investigators an injury to her left wrist and hand that she said she suffered during the homicide.

Carmelina Kohler appeared to have died of stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, a detective wrote.

“(Crystal Kohler) did state that she covered her mother with a blanket so that nobody would find her,” the arrest report said.

Neighbors told CBS12 News that the Kohlers had recently moved into the home where Carmelina Kohler was slain. Clay Potocnik watched as crime scene investigators worked in the home, particularly in the garage, the day the victim’s body was found.

“I’m sorry for the loss of a family member, and I hope that justice come and that God can somehow, some way be there for you in your time of need,” Potocnik said.

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