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Former Gators National Title safety Joiner charged with murder

Florida Football Insiders

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Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

A former starter, defensive captain and member of Florida’s 2006 National Championship team has been arrested three years after his wife was murdered in Fort Myers. Tony Joiner, who played four years with the Gators from 2004 – 2007, was taken into custody in Polk County Saturday afternoon. He is facing a murder charge involving the death of his wife Heyzel Obando, who was found dead in her apartment in February of 2016.

The Fort Myers News-Press had the story Saturday:

Joiner and Obando had two small children together at the time of her death. They are now ages 3 and 6 and currently being raised by her mother, who’s gained custody and has been living in Miami. She told the paper that Ft. Myers police detectives informed her Friday afternoon that Joiner was finally being charged and they were in the process of arresting him.

Joiner was taken into custody in Lake Wales Saturday.

“As a mother, I understand the pain his mother (Joiner) is going through,” Martinez told the News-Press. “But as a mother, no one is going to take my pain away. Now that he is arrested, I hope he feels the weight of the law.”

The 33 year old Joiner was originally recruited by Ron Zook and his coaching staff out of Haines City High School, as one of the top defensive backs in the southeast 2004. He went on to start every game of Florida’s BCS National Championship season in 2006, including making two tackles in the title game against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Joiner also started his entire senior season of 2007 recording the most tackles of his career, 64, and also having two interceptions. He never hooked on with a professional football team after that.

Joiner is expected to be extradited to Lee County to face the murder charge. Police have very carefully protected and never released the cause of death of Obando in 2016. And, they released few details in the last three years, while they have investigated the case. He will apparently be charged with second degree murder.

This arrest is the latest in a string of infamy for Meyer’s coaching tenure in Gainesville. That includes former Gator tight end and later New England Patriots Super Bowl winner Aaron Hernandez having been questioned but never charged in the shooting another student in Gainesville. Hernandez was later charged and convicted in 2015 of murdering friend Odin Llyod, while playing for the Patriots in New England. Hernandez killed himself in 2017 in prison, while waiting trial for two other murder charges in a separate incident that occurred before Lloyd’s death.

Last year, Meyer was embroiled in another controversy at Ohio State. That’s when it came to light that his  receivers coach for the Buckeyes, whom he originally hired when he came to Gainesville, Zach Smith, had been accused of repeatedly physically and emotionally abusing his wife.

As we wrote last August, it’s alleged that Meyer knew of the abuse and was attempting to cover it up to protect Smith and his employment in Gainesville then, and through last year in Columbus.

Smith was subsequently fired by Ohio State last summer and Meyer was suspended for his inaction for the first three games of last season. Meyer eventually retired from the Buckeyes at the end of the year after wining the Rose Bowl.

Back to Joiner. He also has two previous arrests for domestic violence involving Obando. And, Ft. Myers police will obviously detail more in the coming days of why they have waited so long to charge him with her murder.

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