Before sunrise Thursday, Robert and Marisol Best pulled up behind his parents’ Riverview home. They were there to pray. And Robert Best needed it.
He was supposed to be in a Polk County courtroom in a few hours. A jury would hear criminal allegations that he engaged in sex acts with a teenage girl. Whatever they decided could send him to prison — again.
The back door was open. When Robert Best walked in, authorities said he found his father, Virgil Best, 70, and his mother, Shirley Best, 69, both dead. Both had been shot.
When detectives arrived to investigate, they didn’t have to look far to find a suspect.
Marisol Best, 30, the couple’s daughter-in-law, was arrested Friday on two counts of first-degree murder. She killed the couple Wednesday evening, sheriff’s officials said, after she became angry hearing them talk about their son’s imminent trial. Then she accompanied her husband to his parents’ home the next day, when he found their bodies.
Many details about the killings remain unclear. But the official — albeit still incomplete — account that Hillsborough sheriff’s officials gave Friday was the latest chapter in a long, sordid story of legal troubles and family strife.
It is a story that began more than two decades ago. Robert Best, an Army veteran and graduate of East Bay High School, began getting arrested for a series of crimes — grand theft, burglary, arson, firing a gun into a building, among others.
By the early 1990s he had landed a stint in state prison.
From his prison cell, he began writing letters to a blind North Carolina woman. He romanced her, eventually persuading her to send him $1 million.
When he got out in 1996, he spent almost all of the money — on homes, cars and other expensive items. Some things he kept. Others he gave as gifts to family and friends.
He gave his mother a Lincoln Town Car. After he was arrested again, Shirley Best speculated the theft was her son’s attempt to make things right.
“In a way he was trying to pay me back for all the heartaches he’d caused me,” the mother told the St. Petersburg Times in 1996. “Only it caused more — but he had the right intention.”
Robert Best went back to prison.
In 2008, records show he married Marisol De La Cruz in Kissimmee. She was 23 at the time. He was 42.
In 2013, both became entangled in a sex crime investigation in Polk County. At the center of it was a suicidal 17-year-old runaway. Arrest reports say that Marisol Best — described in the report as Robert Best’s “estranged” wife — picked up the girl one day in Lakeland and took her to an Orlando apartment.
She sent a lengthy text message to the girl’s mother, the reports stated. Marisol Best alluded to controversy about her religious beliefs. She mentioned “coming out as a witch.”
When Polk County sheriff’s deputies questioned her and Robert Best regarding the girl’s whereabouts, a report said, they denied knowing where she was.
After the girl was found, according to reports, she revealed that she and Robert Best had a sexual relationship. Detectives arranged to record a call between the two. The 17-year-old told Robert Best she was pregnant.
“Oh my God,” he replied, according to reports.
“Robert was concerned with being convicted of a crime and going to jail for 15 years,” a detective wrote. “Robert asked questions such as ‘Did you tell them I am the father?’ Robert did not deny to the victim he was the father.”
In the call, Robert Best said that if the girl was 10 months older, she would have been of legal age, according to reports. He said he was worried about going to prison and that his two children would be adults by the time he was released.
Marisol Best pleaded guilty in May to interfering with child custody. She was sentenced to five years’ probation.
Robert Best, now 49, still faced charges of committing a sex act with a minor, interference with child custody, and sheltering an unmarried minor.
His trial was to begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m. The call to 911 came at 6:12 a.m.
Virgil Best, 70, and his wife, Shirley, 69, were found dead early Thursday morning at their Riverview home, a 7-acre parcel that also houses the family fish farm business.
Marisol Best told Hillsborough investigators she had become angry because Virgil and Shirley Best “were negative” about their son’s court date, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Detectives said she told them she grabbed a handgun from a car she had driven to the home, walked back inside the house and shot them.
The Sheriff’s Office is still trying to determine if Robert Best had any role in his parents’ deaths. After he discovered them dead, he missed his trial. A Polk County judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Robert Best was locked up Thursday afternoon on a charge of failure to appear. His wife was arrested less than 24 hours later on the murder charges.
The two Bests were being held in the Hillsborough County jail without bail.
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