Real Name: Robert John Dirscherl Sr.
Location: Dunedin, Florida
Date: March 13, 1977
Details: Fifty-four-year-old salesman Robert Dirscherl lived with his wife Jinny in Dunedin, Florida. They had five children. On Sunday, March 13, 1977, they were getting dressed for church when Jinny went to the kitchen. At around 7:30am, she heard a strange loud sound coming from their bedroom. However, she assumed that it was the sound of the back door slamming shut. A few minutes later, she went to their bedroom to get dressed. She found Robert's body laying on the floor with his shotgun next to him. He had been shot in the chest.
Jinny called the police who arrived almost immediately. They found no evidence of a break-in or signs of a struggle. They also found that Robert had one of his shoes off. Within just fifteen minutes, they concluded that he had placed his shotgun on the bed and committed suicide by pulling the trigger with his toe. Jinny, however, said that his shoe was off because he was putting medication on.
For over a decade, the Dirscherl family was haunted by Robert's death. However, they felt they had no choice but to accept the official ruling. Then, in March 1993, Robert's son, Guy, received a letter, postmarked March 13 - sixteen years to the day after Robert's death. It said, "I have AIDS. I am dying. I must make my peace with the Lord. I killed your daddy 15 years ago. He found me in his bedroom. I had no choice. Please pray for me," There was no signature or return address. There was no way to determine if it was a mean-spirited hoax or a sincere deathbed confession. However, his family believes that it is legitimate.
Within two weeks, the case was re-opened. The Dirscherl family began re-investigating the case. They had never before seen the original police report on Robert's death. When they received a copy of it, they found many inconsistencies. In the report, it stated that Robert was depressed because of an unsuccessful surgery that occurred two years earlier. However, his family claimed that he was not upset about it. They noticed that there were interviews in the report with people who had not seen Robert for two years prior to his death. One was from a nurse who incorrectly described him as a "bed-ridden vegetable". In reality, his family described him as a happy, fairly healthy man; he traveled, had a social life, and was a productive salesman.
Robert's closest friends, who would have known Robert's state of mind the best, were not interviewed. There were also no powder burns on his fingers. Finally, they did not understand why Robert would make such an effort to commit suicide with the shotgun (using his toe) when a pistol was on the nearby nightstand. His family felt that the police had botched the original investigation of his death. Jinny stated that she did not believe the gun was fingerprinted, nor was the house dusted for prints. The original investigation was conducted by the Dunedin Police Department, which dissolved in 1995. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office later reviewed the available case files. However, they found no evidence of a homicide.
In February 1995, Jinny's sister, Fran (who is now deceased), traveled from Florida to California on a train. During the trip, she met a woman who, despite being a total stranger, seemed to be familiar with Fran and the Dirscherl family. She said that she knew that Robert had been murdered in 1977. She said that she had been receiving messages from the "other side" ever since her father died. She then wrote down her "psychic vision" on a napkin: There was a narrow door with a gun case showing. Robert went to a cabinet near a mirror to look for foot treatment for athlete's foot. He looked up and saw a stranger in the adjoining room. Alarmed, the robber fought with him and then shot him.
The Dirscherl family was initially skeptical of the woman's story. However, they began to believe her after they discovered that she accurately described details of the crime scene such as Robert's foot ointment and its location in a cabinet beneath a mirror, along with the location of his shotgun. Guy also noted that the woman never made any effort to get money from them. His family believes that these revelations suggest that he was actually murdered. They hope that someone has information about the killer that could lead to the case being solved.
Suspects: Robert's family believes that the letter writer was the killer. The letter was postmarked March 13, 1993, and was mailed from Tampa, Florida.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the February 14, 1997 episode. Some sources spell Robert's last name "Dirschel".
Robert's son Daniel has written a book about the case, "Healing Wounds: The Redemption Legacy".
Results: Unsolved. It has since been discovered that the Dirscherl family had a neighbor and family friend who was a teenager at the time of Robert's death. He had been in the Dirscherl home several times before and would later be convicted of several burglaries and robberies. Years later, he died of AIDS. The neighbor's friends remembered that he often used the term "daddy" similar to how it was used in the confession letter. The Dirscherl family believes that the neighbor was responsible for Robert's death. Handwriting analysis was done, comparing the neighbor's handwriting to the letter. However, it is not known what the results of the analysis revealed.
The police still consider his death a suicide, so the Dirscherl family cannot get a final resolution until his death is ruled a homicide. In 2010, forensic investigators determined that the evidence supported that the death was a homicide. Surprisingly, as of 2015, authorities and the medical examiners have given seven different theories as to how Robert may have committed suicide, while the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
Sadly, Robert's wife, Jinny, died in 2000 and his son, Guy, in 2019 without ever seeing the case resolved.
- Robert Dirscherl on Unsolved.com
- Robert Dirscherl Obituary - March 14, 1977
- Dan Dirscherl's Website
- Robert Dirscherl Sr. Mysterious Death News Footage
- TV to explore mysterious Dunedin death - February 12, 1997
- 'Unsolved Mysteries' to show Dunedin case - February 12, 1997
- Solving mysteries - February 14, 1997
- Family looking for new answers in 1977 Dunedin death - October 29, 2015
- Robert Dirscherl at Find a Grave
- Obituary for Guy Dirscherl
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Robert Dirscherl (includes comments from family)