TAMPA — The woman's severed leg was found in St. Petersburg, her abandoned car in Bradenton. Her girlfriend is still missing — and she's from Hillsborough.
Four bay area law enforcement agencies have been working different ends of this sprawling case. On Thursday, they met and formed a strategy to work as one.
"We basically have a geographical triangle that spreads out into three counties," Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said Friday. "A seasoned investigator knows that communication is key."
Kelly Moriarty, 38, and her girlfriend of two years, Doris Carter, 62, were last seen Dec. 16 at Carter's house north of Plant City.
Moriarty's car was found abandoned in Parrish four days later. Her leg washed ashore in St. Petersburg on Dec. 27. Investigators finally identified it last week.
The discovery brought up more questions than it answered, including: Did someone kill Moriarty? Where? Is Carter still alive?
Deputies are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to find out where the leg might have been put in the water. Tides and currents provide clues, McKinnon said.
Meanwhile, Hillsborough is focusing on finding Carter. St. Petersburg is talking to the couple's St. Petersburg friends and those who'd go out with them downtown, and Bradenton police and Manatee deputies are working the car angle and their missing person: Moriarty.
Officials from the Hillsborough and Pinellas state attorney's offices also attended Thursday's meeting at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Operations Center in Ybor City.
They plan to share all notes, reports, tips and findings. That's because if the case turns out to be a homicide, it could end up in any jurisdiction. Officials hope the agency that takes it over will already be up to speed on the entire case, McKinnon said.
"It's just more efficient," he said.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.