MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will convene a panel of 15 to 20 experts to review the now-closed case of a 22-year-old Tampa woman whose death was ruled a suicide.
Sheena Morris was found in a motel room in Bradenton Beach on Jan. 1, 2009 and her death was ruled a suicide by hanging by the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
Kelly Osborn, Morris' mother, who lives in Tampa, is convinced her daughter's death is a homicide and that the hanging was staged. She started a website called justiceforsheena.com.
In July 2010, Morris' body was exhumed and a second autopsy was performed by an examiner selected by Osborn. That examiner ruled that while her death was caused by hanging, the manner of death was undetermined.
That finding was enough to prompt Russell Vega, the Manatee County medical examiner, to reclassify Morris' death as "undetermined."
A request for a SMART panel, also known as a specialized, multi-agency review
team, was made byBradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale onTuesday, said Gretl Ples-singer, a spokespersonfor the Florida Depart-ment of Law Enforcement.
"The chief asked us to convene a SMART panel," Plessinger confirmed Thursday.
Osborn planned to attend a Bradenton Beach city commission meeting Thursday to speak about her daughter's death during public comments.
"They insist they didan investigation and Iinsist they did not do an investigation," Osborn said by phone earlier Thursday referring to the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
The panel, none of whom were involved with the case, will convene for one day later this month or early in September and, during that time, the investigator for the original case will present the facts along with photographs of the death scene and police reports, Plessinger said.
"It's a fresh set of eyes," Plessinger said. "The panel reviews but does not reinvestigate."
Osborn, who is not convinced the SMART panel will prove beneficial since it is not a reinvestigation, was troubled that she had to find out on her own about it.
"Chief Sam Speciale has not had the decency to inform me at all," Osborn said.
A call to Speciale's office Thursday was not immediately returned.
The panel will report its findings to Speciale, which could include recommendations to reopen the case.
"The Bradenton Beach Police Department will make the determination as to where to go from there," according to Plessinger.
On Thursday, chief assistant state attorney Ed Brodsky said he welcomed the new developments.
"I met with her," Brodsky said of Osborn.
"Then, we didn't find anything that was consistent with a theory of homicide and now she has found something worth taking a second look at. I think it's appropriate that FDLE has stepped in."