Crime

Sheriff: Death of woman found on Palmetto street is a homicide

Manatee County Sheriffs' office and the Medical Examiners office investigate the scene in Palmetto where a couple walking early in the morning discovered the body of a woman near a property with greenhouses off a dirt road. A spokesperson from the Sheriff's office said the woman was a victim of homicide, and had evident trauma but are withholding further details.
TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald
Manatee County Sheriffs' office and the Medical Examiners office investigate the scene in Palmetto where a couple walking early in the morning discovered the body of a woman near a property with greenhouses off a dirt road. A spokesperson from the Sheriff's office said the woman was a victim of homicide, and had evident trauma but are withholding further details. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald ttompkins@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- Detectives believe a woman found dead early Thursday was killed elsewhere before being dumped in a Palmetto neighborhood, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

"We are treating the case as a homicide," said sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow. "We think she was probably dumped here, not killed here."

Bristow said the woman had suffered trauma to her upper body, but he would not provide details of how she might have been killed.

The victim has been tentatively identified, however her identity will not be released until positive identification is made, the sheriff's office said Thursday afternoon.

A couple on their morning walk about 6:20 a.m. discovered the body in the 2900 block of 24th Avenue East, Palmetto, according to a news release. The body was found off the road and close to a dirt driveway leading to a nursery.

"We had two people out here walking this morning, it was their normal routine ... all of a sudden they see what they think could be a body, they weren't sure because it was dark, the guy has a flash light, shines a flash light and realizes that it is a body," said Bristow.

The couple did not have their cellphones with them, so they walked down the street and flagged down a motorist.

"And 911 is called, we respond, by the time we get here is 6:20 6:25 and from that point we knew it was a homicide," Bristow said.

At the scene, Shantel Morris, 36, of Palmetto said she comes down to the area every three weeks to drop junk at a junkyard nearby and rarely sees people walking around.

"I never even see a human being walking around, maybe cows, and that's once in a blue moon," she said.

Morris and Rudy Flores, also of Palmetto, both described the area as quiet and said they were surprised to hear the news and see the law enforcement presence.

"It's shocking," Rudy Flores said. "I hope they find who did it."

There were at least eight Manatee County Sheriff's Office vehicles on site, and deputies and officials from the medical examiner's office were investigating the scene around the woman's body, which was just off the street on what appeared to be a gravel driveway near a vacant grassy and wooded lot.

The body was placed in a van at about 10:20 a.m.

Jeffrey Bishop, 48, of Ellenton, who owns a shop a few blocks away from where the body was found described the discovery as "absolutely insane."

"It just shocks me," he said. "In the past four years that I've been in this area, nothing like this has happened."

"That kinda blows me away," Bishop said. "It's a quiet neighborhood as far as I know."

A neighbor who declined to give her name said she has lived in the area since 1996 and aside from the car traffic heading to the junk yard, "We never had anything like that.

The woman said she learned what had happened about 8:30 a.m., when she was alerted by deputies who were canvassing the neighborhood for possible information about the slaying.

The body and deputies surrounding it could be seen from the woman's front gate.

"My first question, I was wondering if it was my daughter, but thank goodness it wasn't," the woman said. "But after that I thought, 'Well, she's someone's daughter."

Bristow addressed concerns that the victim's killer is on the loose.

"Neighbors should be concerned at all times, OK, it's just the times we live in," Bristow said. "Should they be concerned that there's a killer on the loose? Well someone killed this individual, so yes there is a killer on the loose but ... we don't believe it's a random situation where they are just picking up someone."

"We believe just from early indications that someone knew this individual, killed this individual and then brought her out here," he said.

About 11 a.m., Louise Waiters walked up near the crime scene, holding the purse with a piece of paper so she wouldn't get her fingerprints on it.

"I was driving and saw it in the middle of the road over there," Waiters said, pointing to an apartment complex a few blocks away.

Detectives were quickly summoned and carefully removed the purse, which had not been touched by anyone after Waiters dropped it by the side of the road.

A cell phone inside the purse went off while detectives were on their way to pick it up.

There is no word yet from authorities if the purse and the homicide are connected.

The case is the 21st homicide investigated in Manatee County in 2012.

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