Courts & Crime

Man's blurry photos captured killer, but case still unsolved

On Aug. 1, 1980, John Toth was heading to his Holmes Beach home from his business, a TV shop in Village Green Plaza, with his Canon SLR camera lying next to him in his car.

As the then-40-year-old crossed the Anna Maria Island bridge and came up on the Kingfish Boat Ramp, he watched a 1977 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon towing a boat travel erratically and eventually veer off the roadway near a row of trees, where it jackknifed.

Driving with one hand and grabbing the camera with the other, Toth began snapping several frames as someone emerged from the vehicle and began walking away.

At the time, Toth thought it was just a traffic accident. He had no idea he was witnessing — and with his camera, documenting — what turned out to be one of Manatee County's most notorious unsolved murder cases.

Four people — Dr. Juan Dumois, his sons Eric and Mark, and Holmes Beach resident Robert Matzke — were slain that summer afternoon 30 years ago.

The man who came out of the vehicle was the killer.

Toth never saw the image he captured until this past Aug. 1, when the Bradenton Herald published his photograph along with a story on the 30th anniversary of the slayings.

"I was just filled with emotions again," said Toth, who had handed over the roll of film to police.

Toth, an amateur photographer, always kept a camera with him. He had just snapped a picture of a young girl with a dog in the back of a station wagon as he crossed the bridge. Then he came to the boat ramp.

"I picked up my camera, but in a haste to snap what I was seeing I did not set it to auto focus," Toth said. "I continued to snap until I got upon the scene. I parked my van about 60 feet from the vehicle and went over to see if I could be of any help."

The photographs show a man outside the station wagon, with a boat in the background. The images are blurred.

"I always kick myself in the butt for that," Toth said, standing out at the boat ramp recently and reflecting on that day. "Because if I had nailed it, they could have got him."

No one has ever been arrested in the case. The murder weapon, a 22-caliber handgun, was never found.

Read more of this story at Bradenton.com

  Comments