The Disappearance of Lisa Spence, Part 1

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O n Oct. 7, 2009, Lisa Spence was finishing up a late-night work shift at a Kwik Stop convenience store in Miramar, Florida.

She put in hours there and at Bella’s Beauty Supply next door when they needed her.

They are in a small strip mall that also includes a chiropractor’s office and a shop offering psychic readings.

Lisa Spence held two jobs in this Miramar, Florida, strip mall — Kwik Stop convenience store on the far left and Bella Beauty Supply in the center. (2010 photo)

On that Wednesday night, Lisa took a break to call her daughter, Cerline, who lived in Trinidad and was just a few days from her 18th birthday.

It was a short break and Lisa had to get back to work. She promised Cerline she’d call back later. But she never did.

Cerline called her back several times but got no answer. The next morning, she tried again. It was unusual behavior for her mom and Cerline was worried.

Lisa Spence

Lisa was scheduled for another work shift that morning at the strip mall that was right around the corner from her apartment. She never showed up, and never called her boss or co-workers.

Days passed, and nobody saw Lisa again. She vanished.

The search for Lisa

Lisa’s sister-in-law, Avril Absolum, lived in Philadelphia when word reached her that Lisa was missing.

Avril didn’t know much about Florida and started calling around to different police agencies before catching a break with a call to Miramar.

The officer who answered her call was a regular customer of the Kwik Stop — he knew Lisa Spence. The Kwik Stop is popular with other police officers, too. So when they hear about Lisa’s disappearance, they start an investigation.

Lisa was officially a missing person.

Several days into the search, an officer was at the Kwik Stop interviewing Lisa’s co-workers and customers. One of them was her boss, Mohammed Awad, and he gave the officer some odd information.

He said one of Lisa’s friends got a couple texts from her — the day after she disappeared.

It turned out he wasn’t the only one.

Paul Edwards

Lisa had been in a relationship with Paul Edwards off and on for years. He’s the one who convinced her to move to Florida a few years earlier.

She was a native of Trinidad, one of the most distant islands in the Caribbean. lt’s a popular destination for the huge cruise ships that sail out of Florida. The ships dock in a downtown that features skyscrapers, bustling arcade malls, a financial center — and patience-testing rush-hour traffic.

Trinidad is a popular destination for cruise ships that dock at Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain. (Getty Images)

Lisa’s hometown was Arima in the middle of the island. She was living there among her family, including her teenage son and daughter.

Paul was a former corrections officer in Trinidad’s prison system and he and Lisa had been dating on and off on the island.

After their last breakup, Paul had moved to Florida and not long later, he was trying to convince Lisa to join him there. She’d be happy, he told her.

Paul Edwards (Rafael Olmeda / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

He finally talked her into it, and Lisa left her children in the care of her mother and other family and moved to South Florida.

Paul and Lisa

The couple moved into their tiny apartment on Venetian Street in Miramar. Lisa got the jobs at the Kwik Mart and Bella Beauty Supply, and Paul worked as a concierge at a senior-living facility in Aventura, not far from home.

After Lisa went missing, friends began to tell police that her relationship with Paul was rocky and they accused Paul of being abusive to her.

In fact, they said Lisa was considering leaving him.

When police questioned him, he told them that they did fight sometimes, and had argued the night Lisa disappeared. She was going to leave, Paul told police, so he went for a drive to let her gather her things — when he returned an hour later, she was gone.

Police questioned Paul about cuts he had on his hand and arm. He said he got them a week earlier during a fight with Lisa. She threatened him with a knife, he said, and he got cut trying to take the knife from her.

A week after Lisa was last seen, Paul had cuts that hadn’t completely scabbed over — on his forearm and on one of his pinky fingers. (Court records)

Police also learned that Lisa had started a new relationship behind Paul’s back.

A man named Shakiene Lopez had started coming into the Kwik Stop and he became friends with Lisa. Their relationship quickly became romantic.

Police questioned Shakiene, who confirmed that he and Lisa were involved. Very involved. They were starting to plan a new life together and even talked about getting married.

But Shakiene had an alibi for the night Lisa disappeared. Police verified Shakiene’s alibi and ruled him out as a suspect.

Mysterious texts

Lisa’s friends and family told police that they started getting text messages from Lisa’s phone after she disappeared. One friend got two just the next day, though he couldn’t remember what they said and he deleted them from his phone.

But Lisa’s brother, Dexter Vincent, saved the texts he got.

Dexter Vincent, Lisa’s brother, lived in Philadelphia and started receiving a series of texts from his sister’s phone within days of her disappearance. (Michael Laughlin / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Dexter had been leaving voicemails for Lisa since she vanished, but she never called back.

Instead, he started getting a string of texts from her. Some were so long that they were broken up into several texts — and they weren’t making much sense.

The first came to Dexter’s phone at 5:54 p.m. on October 9th, two days after Lisa disappeared.

Screenshots of text messages Dexter Vincent received from the phone of his sister, Lisa Spence, days after she disappeared. (Miramar police records)

Suspicious that it was not his sister who was sending the texts, Dexter replied just one time. In his text, he asked Lisa a question about a childhood friend that only she would know the answer to.

He got no answer. And the texts from Lisa’s phone stopped.

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Dexter was convinced it wasn’t her, and so were police. And when records from cellphone towers showed that Lisa’s phone was always in close proximity to Paul Edwards’ phone, it helped police zero in on him.

Blood in Lisa’s apartment

Armed with a warrant, detectives did a forensic search of Paul and Lisa’s apartment. They discovered tiny amounts of blood in the bathroom — and the placement and pattern looked suspicious.

Possible blood on tile in Lisa and Paul’s bathroom (Court records)
More blood was found on the door frame to the couple’s bathroom. (Court records)

The blood was found on a vanity, the backsplash tiles above the bathtub and on the bathroom door frame.

And when police found the rental car Paul had been driving at the time of Lisa’s disappearance, they found blood in there, too. It was on the jamb of the back left door.

Police say Paul’s mother rented a Toyota Highlander for him, and he was driving it in the days around Lisa’s disappearance. Detectives found blood inside the SUV. (Miramar police records)

Detectives were closing in on Paul Edwards. But they were still missing key pieces of the puzzle.

Most importantly, they were missing Lisa. Without her — or her body — they couldn’t even prove a crime had taken place.

But just two months into the investigation, that would change in a field in Miami Gardens about 10 minutes from Paul and Lisa’s apartment.

(Miramar police records)

About Felonious Florida

The Felonious Florida podcast is produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and presented in audio form in partnership with Wondery. Reporting is based on court documents, interviews, police reports and media coverage. The show was created by Lisa Arthur and Juan Ortega and is produced by David Schutz. Reporting by Stephen Hobbs, Juan Ortega, Marc Freeman and Tonya Alanez. Editing by Randy Roguski. The host of Felonious Florida is EmmaKate Austin. Sound direction by Sean Pitts with additional recordings by Carline Jean, Susan Stocker and John McCall. Web design by Yiran Zhu. The Felonious Florida team includes Dana Banker, Danny Sanchez, Cindy Choi and Kelly Frye.

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