SPRING HILL — When Jodie Sheehan woke up on Feb. 25, she knew her brother was dead.
She had dreamed it.
Panicked, the Tampa resident scoured the Internet and called anyone who might have known where to locate her sibling, Paul Kulek. She never found him.
On that same day, Sheehan later learned, a man walking his dog in Spring Hill had made a startling discovery: a human skull. On Wednesday, Hernando County sheriff's deputies announced that the skull, and other bones found in the area, belonged to Sheehan's brother.
Kulek, authorities told her, had climbed 50 feet up a secluded tree in some woods near Lema and Gretna drives and hanged himself.
He suffered from bipolar disorder and struggled through a lifetime of drug addiction, his sister said. He would have been 41.
In Florida, he had been arrested 30 times. He stole cars and cash and wrote bad checks. Around age 8 or 9, Sheehan said, he smoked marijuana. That turned into crack cocaine, then heroin, then methamphetamine.
"All of his troubles," she said, "were related to drugs."
Kulek served five stints in state prison, records show, the latest running from July 2006 to February 2010.
Sheehan, 43, saw her brother for the last time within weeks of his release. Their father, William, had passed away in late 2009. Kulek came to his sister's home to pick up paperwork so he could collect some inheritance money. He was high.
That July, she said, he called her. He wanted to visit Sheehan and her kids. She wanted that, too, but told her brother he needed to stay clean for a year before she could let him visit.
"I promise," he said. "I promise."
Investigators also found a white, powdery substance in a backpack located at the scene. They told her it was likely a drug.
When sober, she said, Kulek acted like a different person. He was kind and generous and loved his family.
He learned to be a journeyman electrician around age 20. In prison, he became a certified chef.
The drugs always lured him back, though.
"I just miss knowing that I had my brother," she said. "I miss him being clean."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Reach John Woodrow Cox at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]