Two large boxes filled with documents sit at Detective Ronald Chalmers’ desk. A stack of old photos is laid out ready to be analyzed. It has been 34 years since Eleanor Swift and Opal Weil were murdered, but Cold Case Unit detectives are still working hard to find their killer. Although much time has passed, the hope to find answers still lives in the hearts of the victims’ relatives. The commitment to keep the community safe, the drive to bring the murderers to justice, and the duty to give the loved ones answers is what keeps Detective Chalmers and Detective Walter Bonasoro motivated when they walk into work at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).
They have 40 unsolved murder cases, 9 rapes, 29 missing people, and 2 suspicious deaths on their list of cases to work. These two members of the Cold Case Unit focus on a few cases at a time but are familiar with all of them going back to 1955.

“These cases have been worked by very good detectives in the past, and for whatever reason, they were not solved,” Detective Bonasoro said. “So it’s our job to pick up where they left off, and a lot of times, go through these cases word for word, search through boxes for clues, look through all the photos, and comb through evidence meticulously to hopefully find a lead.”

Not only do the two detectives look at the cases with a fresh perspective and review every detail of the case, but they also re-submit pieces of evidence to the PCSO Forensic Sciences Division and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Lab. 

In the cases of Swift and Weil, two similar murders just days apart from each other, DNA evidence was collected, but the technology was not available at the time to identify a suspect. Decades later, Detective Chalmers is sending the DNA evidence to forensic experts in an effort to identify a suspect. Along with DNA advancements, fingerprinting and genealogy databases are forging new paths that lead to the perpetrators.

When the Cold Case Unit started in 2017, Detective Bonasoro and Detective Chris Lyons (who now works in the Robbery/Homicide Unit) worked a violent rape case from 1987 that resulted in a successful arrest. They had decided to re-submit a fingerprint to the sheriff office’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Division from the scene of the crime and found a suspect who was in their database due to an offense he committed after the rape. They tracked down the suspect who was living in Mississippi and arrested him. He is currently in the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial. 

Since the Cold Case Unit started, the detectives have successfully solved four cold cases. They also found multiple leads in other cases, but the victims or witnesses involved don’t always cooperate.

“These case files do not stay in the closet,” Detective Bonasoro said. “They come to our desks, and sometimes it can take years to discover a lead. A lot of times we work past quitting hours, bring documents home with us to read, and go knocking on the doors of people after 20 years have gone by in the hopes they will cooperate with us. It’s challenging, but very satisfying work.”

Detective Bonasoro and Detective Chalmers work on different cases, but they also help each other, which can include traveling out of state to talk to witnesses and suspects. Recently, Detective Banasoro has been reviewing sexual battery cases while Detective Chalmers has been investigating the 1987 homicides and an unidentified John Doe from 1988. 

While Detective Bonasoro has lived in Pinellas County his whole life and has worked at the sheriff’s office for 22 years, Detective Chalmers recently moved to Tampa Bay after working on violent crimes in Reno, NV for 14 years. Though they have different backgrounds, they both bring different perspectives and experience to the crime scenes they meticulously analyze. 

“The word I hear a lot from victims’ family members is hope,” Detective Chalmers said. “They feel renewed with hope every time the sheriff’s office calls them and says they are still looking into the unsolved crime, and that is very powerful. But, we can’t be successful without the community’s help. We have to work together. No matter how insignificant you may think a piece of information about a case is, it could potentially lead to new developments and ultimately to the person who committed the crime. Please call and provide that information, and we will do our due diligence to go investigate all those leads. The community plays a significant role in helping us solve these crimes.”

To see a list of the PCSO’s unsolved violent crimes, visit:

If you have any information related to these cases, please call the Cold Case Unit at: 727-582-6307.