Man suspected of killing, dismembering woman indicted on higher first-degree murder charges

A grand jury on Thursday indicted the man accused of killing a woman and dumping her dismembered body into the water near downtown Tampa on first-degree murder charges.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office said it had obtained an indictment against 69-year-old Robert Kessler. He had been charged with second-degree murder for last month's death of 47-year-old Stephanie Crone-Overholts from Erie, Pennsylvania.

A fisherman spotted body parts belonging to her in McKay Bay in early November. Police released photos of her tattoo — three hearts including the name of her son.

RELATED: Murder victim was reported missing in Pennsylvania on same day that remains were found in bay

Crone-Overholts was reported missing by her mother in Pennsylvania the same day partial human remains were discovered. After the photo of the tattoo was released to the public, the Crone-Overholts’ family came forward to identify her.

The relationship between Kessler and Crone-Overholts was unclear. Interim Tampa Police Chief Ruben Delgado said last month that the two had been living together after meeting at a McDonald's restaurant.

Police found her blood inside his van and home, Delgado said. Kessler's 7-year-old daughter told investigators that the victim had stayed with them for about a week, and she saw the couple arguing about money the night before she disappeared.

RELATED: Family fighting for custody of accused murderer Robert Kessler’s daughter

Family members say the 7-year-old's mother died of a drug overdose in September. Since Kessler's arrest on Nov. 24, the girl has been in foster care, unable to communicate directly with her family. However, the Florida Department of Children and Families told one family member that the young girl has expressed she wants to be back with them.

It’s unclear if Kessler has retained an attorney who could comment on the charges.

Prosecutors have not decided yet whether to seek the death penalty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.