On March 18, 1999, a family riding bicycles through a Ruskin, Florida neighborhood discovered something shocking: the body of a white female lying in a ditch. Her clothing was gone. Her body was bruised, and the cause of death was ruled strangulation. We take a look back at the murder of Mary "Rose" Duff in hope that you can help us solve this "Unfinished Business."
Crystal Clark, Host: MARCH 18, 1999…A FAMILY RIDING BICYCLES THROUGH A RUSKIN NEIGHBORHOOD DISCOVERS SOMETHING SHOCKING… THE BODY OF A WHITE FEMALE LYING IN A DITCH.
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “She appeared to have just been thrown into the drainage ditch.”
Crystal Clark, Host: HER CLOTHING - GONE. HER BODY - BRUISED. THE CAUSE OF DEATH — STRANGULATION. WE’RE TAKING A LOOK BACK AT THE MURDER OF MARY DUFF IN HOPES THAT *YOU* CAN HELP US SOLVE THIS “UNFINISHED BUSINESS.”
Brandon Duff, Son: “I was 13 when my mom passed away, and I just always remember her being a very positive person. Always smiling and laughing, and you know, just very positive.”
Crystal Clark, Host: BRANDON DUFF WAS ONE OF FIVE CHILDREN TO 34-YEAR-OLD MARY DUFF OF TAMPA.
Brandon Duff, Son: “To me, she always had an aura about her, like she always was glowing.”
Crystal Clark, Host: MARCH 17, 1999 STARTED OUT LIKE ANY OTHER DAY FOR MARY DUFF. SHE DROVE A WHITE CHEVY IMPALA FROM HER FAMILY’S HOME IN NORTH TAMPA WITH HER 3-YEAR-OLD SON RONALD JR. TO HEAD TO AN APPOINTMENT THAT MORNING… BY AFTERNOON SHE STOPPED AT A FRIEND’S HOUSE.
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “While at the friend’s house, according to them she had left — come and gone — several times. They’re not 100% sure where she went, but every time she left it was for a short period of time, and she left Ronald Jr. at the house to be supervised by the other adults.”
Crystal Clark, Host: DETECTIVE MELISSA BRUNELLE OF THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION SAYS DUFF WAS KNOWN TO COME AND GO…
Crystal Clark, Host: “Was this normal behavior for Mary Duff?"
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “According to family and friends Ms. Duff had a history of substance abuse, and when she was using these substances she tended to act differently than your typical person would.”
Crystal Clark, Host: LIKE MANY PLAGUED BY ADDICTION…DUFF WOULD DO THINGS OUT OF CHARACTER FOR MONEY… BUT HER FAMILY SAYS, IN SPITE OF IT ALL, SHE WAS CONSISTENT IN ALWAYS COMING BACK HOME, AND NEVER LEAVING WITH STRANGERS OUTSIDE OF THE TAMPA AREA…UNTIL THAT NIGHT…
Brandon Duff, Son: “She definitely made some mistakes, but nothing that should have cost her her life, that’s for sure.”
Crystal Clark, Host: SHORTLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT, DUFF ASKED HER FRIEND TO DROP HER OFF AT THE INTERSTATE LOUNGE NEAR NEBRASKA AVENUE AND BUSCH BOULEVARD, JUST OUTSIDE THE CITY LIMITS OF TAMPA. HER FRIEND COMPLIED.
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “She dropped her off there around 11:30, and that was the last time that Ms. Duff was seen alive and known to be alive by any of her friends or family members.”
Crystal Clark, Host: THE NEXT DAY, NOON ON MARCH 18, A FAMILY RIDING THEIR BICYCLES NEAR SHELL POINT DRIVE IN RUSKIN FOUND DUFF — DECEASED.
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “Her remains were found in a drainage ditch over in the Ruskin area, which is a significant distance from where her family and friends were. No known relatives in that area, no friends or family in that area. No reason for her to really be out there.”
Crystal Clark, Host: DUFF HAD BEEN VIOLENTLY MURDERED…STRANGLED TO DEATH…AND POSSIBLY SEXUALLY ABUSED. DEPUTIES CANVASSED THE AREA, SEARCHING FOR WITNESSES OR NEIGHBORS WHO COULD PROVIDE TIPS… THE ONLY POSSIBLE LEAD TO FINDING DUFF’S KILLER…WAS A COUPLE WHO PASSED THE AREA WHERE DUFF WAS FOUND THE NIGHT OF MARCH 17…WHO THOUGHT THEY SAW SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS….
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “The female and her husband were leaving for a work function, and as they were driving down Shellpoint between 11th Avenue and 19th Avenue, they saw what appeared to be odd to them. A dark green Chevy or Dodge pick up truck, newer model with a toolbox on the back. Because of the area, it was odd to see a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road. They observed the driver’s door to be closed and the passenger door to be open with a white male, probably in his mid to late 30s, standing on the outside of the passengers side of the vehicle."
Crystal Clark, Host: THEY UNFORTUNATELY DID NOT STOP…OR TAKE DOWN THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBER OF THE VEHICLE. THE NEXT DAY, DUFF’S BODY WAS DISCOVERED.
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “We had been looking into at the time different green pick up trucks, Chevy, Dodge.”
Crystal Clark, Host: BUT THE AMOUNT OF GREEN PICK UP TRUCKS REGISTERED IN THE COUNTY WAS EXORBITANT ENOUGH AT THAT TIME THAT THE LEAD FELL COLD…
Brandon Duff, Son: “You know at 13, it doesn’t seem real, you know? It just seems like she’ll come back home… It just was not something that I was prepared for at all.”
Crystal Clark, Host: MORE THAN 20 YEARS LATER, BRANDON DUFF — NOW A PARENT HIMSELF — SAYS THE PAIN OF LOSING HIS MOTHER IS STILL THERE.
Brandon Duff, Son: “I do tell my son stories about my mom. I haven’t went into detail on what happened with him and stuff, but I do have a daughter that’s going to be born here in the next month, so I plan on giving her my mom’s middle name, which is Roselyn. What she went by was Rose, so yeah, it’s difficult when it comes to her grandchildren never being able to met her and stuff like that. She has three grandchildren as of now. She’s going to have four as of next month.”
Crystal Clark, Host: DUFF’S DNA COLLECTED FROM A SEXUAL BATTERY EXAM AND HAIR FIBERS WERE SENT OFF FOR TESTING TO SEE IF ANY MATCHES CAME BACK…
Det. Melissa Brunelle: “DNA was submitted back in 1999 when the case initially came through to FDLE. It was resubmitted in 2010 to a private lab called Trinity DNA solutions.”
Crystal Clark, Host: AFTER TWO MORE DNA SUBMISSIONS IN 2015 AND AGAIN IN 2020, STILL….NO MATCHES.
Brandon Duff, Son: “If it happened to your mother, or your daughter or your family member, you would definitely want answers how my mother's family does... It affects more than just one person. It affects so many people.”
Crystal Clark, Host: “What are the missing pieces that the public or maybe even her friends or family can provide to hopefully help solve this?"
Det. Melissa Brunelle: "If anyone else saw her at the Interstate Lounge that night. Did you see her leave with somebody? Did you see her get into a vehicle? What kind of vehicle was it? We have this family out in Ruskin that was saying it was a dark green pick up truck. Did someone see a vehicle like that and see something odd at the interstate lounge or in the area?”
Crystal Clark, Host: BRANDON’S MESSAGE TO ANYONE WHO CAN PROVIDE ANSWERS…
Brandon Duff, Son: “Just please do the right thing and come forward with any kind of information that you feel might help. I mean, it would mean the world to a lot of people, and people shouldn’t die in vain with nobody to actually help find who killed them. Not only my mother, but other women and children that are murdered. They deserve better out of society.”
Crystal Clark, Host: IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON THIS CASE OR ANY CASES INVESTIGATED BY THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, PLEASE CALL HCSO AT 813-247-8200. FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA AT HCSO SHERIFF TO FOLLOW ALONG WITH ANY UPDATES ON THIS CASE.