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Well-known Lakewood Ranch realtor’s death was a freak accident, medical examiner says

Surveillance video catches Michelle Hunt and boyfriend after fall

Nearly four months after realtor Michelle Hunt died following a fall off her boyfriend’s boat, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is closing their investigation into her death after a medical examiner ruled it an accident.
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Nearly four months after realtor Michelle Hunt died following a fall off her boyfriend’s boat, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is closing their investigation into her death after a medical examiner ruled it an accident.

Nearly four months after well-known Lakewood Ranch Realtor Michelle Hunt died following a fall off her long-time off-again, on-again boyfriend’s boat, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is closing its investigation into her death after a medical examiner ruled it an accident.

The ruling came after witnesses who saw Hunt fall finally came forward and corroborated her boyfriend’s account and confirmed there had been no foul play.

Hunt, 45, died hours after her fall on Dec. 16 after being rushed to a local emergency room. The cause of her death was a laceration to her liver, that can be fairly explained as a freak accident, according to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega.

“Because the information we had at first was limited, we wanted to make sure there was no evidence of foul play,” Vega said. “ I have never seen a kidney laceration without any other overlying injury.”

Hunt didn’t have any bruises on her side, making the injury difficult for a medical examiner to explain at first. Her boyfriend, who had given deputies an initial account of what happened while in the emergency room, refused to talk to detectives, making it harder for the medical examiner’s office and detectives investigating her death.

The couple had a troubled history, described to detectives and the Bradenton Herald as toxic and unhealthy. The sheriff’s office had made the case public in January in an attempt to find someone else who may have witnessed what happened.

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Michelle Hunt died on Dec. 16 hours after her boyfriend told deputies she had fallen off his boat while they were docking near a Casey Key tiki bar. With the cause and manner of her death still undetermined, detectives are investigating her death but Hunt’s boyfriend is refusing to talk to them. Provided photo

Eventually, witnesses did come forward, sheriff’s office Randy Warren confirmed. With a second similar account describing a fall, a medical examiner determined the best explanation for Hunt’s lacerated liver was that when she fell off the boat, she hit her side with a relatively smooth and narrow surface, likely a railing.

With the manner of death ruled an accident, the sheriff’s office is now closing its investigation.

To Hunt’s family, the medical examiner’s ruling finally provides some answers and closure. Hunt’s aunt, Phyllis Peterson, is hoping they can now begin to move on.

“You just got to move forward,” Peterson said. “I know she would have wanted that.”

The difficult part for her to understand is why her niece’s boyfriend didn’t take her to a doctor regardless of her refusal to get help. But detectives reminded her that an adult cannot be forced to seek medical attention.

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The last post on Michelle Hunt’s Facebook page hours before her death on Dec. 16. Provided photo

Difficult as it may be, Peterson knew that regardless the outcome of the investigation, nothing would bring her beloved niece back.

“I’m trying to accept that,” she said.

But as Hunt’s only son is about to become a father, she can’t help but be saddened by what could have been.

“I attended a baby shower last week, and she wasn’t there and it was hard for me,” Peterson said. “She used to call me all the time, and I miss that.”

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Michelle Hunt Manatee County Sheriff's Office Provided photo

For Hunt’s boyfriend, the ruling brings some relief, according to Tampa defense attorney Bryant Camareno.

He told Camareno, “But I can’t celebrate, because I lost Michelle,” according to Camareno.

On the day of her death, the couple left Phillippi Harbor Club marina in Sarasota on his boat. Later when they were docking near the Casey Key Fish House restaurant in Osprey, Hunt slipped off the boat.

The couple later returned to her Lakewood Ranch home. Hunt had been vomiting and wanted to shower, refusing his initial attempt to take her to a doctor. Back at her home, however, her condition deteriorated and her boyfriend called one her friends and then 911.

Hunt died in the emergency room soon after.

According to her autopsy report, Hunt had several fractured ribs and had been bleeding internally.

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