Investigators recovered additional remains Thursday believed to be part of the skeletal remains found in the woods behind the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission offices at Port Manatee by two Mosquito Control workers.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the victim died of trauma to his chest, according to initial autopsy report results released by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The victim is believed to have been a white or Hispanic man, who was 5 feet, 4 inches tall and was in his 40s or 50s at the time of his death. The remains are believed to have been there for at least several months.
The bones were first discovered Wednesday morning, when two Mosquito Control workers were doing routine monthly checks of mosquito traps in the wooded area, owned by Tampa Electric Company. Sheriff’s investigators were called out to the scene and a homicide investigation is now underway.
The remains were collected by a crime scene technician and taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy in hopes of identifying the victim and a cause and manner of death.
On Monday, the Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct extensive testing of the bones, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren. Detectives are also going through missing person reports from Manatee and Hillsborough counties.
Additional remains were found Thursday by cadaver dogs from Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue, a volunteer-based search-and-rescue group that works with law enforcement that specializes in finding missing persons or human remains.
The remains had been scattered by wild animals in the woods so efforts are being made to recover all the remains and make sure there were not any additional remains or evidence.
Deputies with long guns led the search to ensure the safety of the cadaver dogs, because the wooded area is populated with wild boars and coyotes. Sarasota Search and Rescue brought eight of their 35 cadaver dogs to the scene, but only four were used.
The dogs, with their trained and certified handlers not far behind, searched sections of the wooded area and a clearing near where the remains were located Wednesday. Yellow flag marked the spots.
At about 10 a.m. Thursday, Kismet, an Australian Shepherd, sat in a bushy area, indicating to her handler, Sheila Sullivan, that she had detected remains. Molly was rewarded with a treat while homicide detective Jeffrey Bliss and handler Rob Buchanan confirmed additional remains had been found there.
Bliss called for crime scene technician Rebecca Fossaceca, who measured, photographed and collected the remains in an evidence bag.
Additional results from an autopsy, which could require DNA testing and take weeks, will be crucial for homicide detectives’ investigation.
The search for remains continued into Thursday afternoon, but investigators will rely on the Medical Examiner’s Office in hopes of identifying the remains.
“We don’t know where our victim came from or if they have a lot of records,” said sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren, making the investigation challenging. “So this could be a while.”
The sheriff’s office said they will release additional information regarding their investigation pending results from the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Anyone with any information regarding this case can call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011 ext. 2519, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.