Sunday, June 24, 2018
Public safety

Officials confirm identity of body found in Clearwater storage unit

CLEARWATER — The strange saga that began when a 95-year-old woman's remains were found in a Clearwater storage unit this year appears to have come to an end, after police announced Wednesday that DNA testing had confirmed her identity.

In January, Ann Bunch was discovered in a plywood coffin kept in the U-Stor Self Storage unit. Her granddaughter, Clearwater resident Rebecca Ann Fancher, said her mother had placed Bunch in storage because she did not have the means to transport her to her preferred burial plot in Alabama.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Bunch's unusual resting place came to light when U-Stor managers threatened to auction off Fancher's possessions because of late rent payments.

Fancher's ex-husband, John Setlow, said at the time that Bunch's daughter, Bobbie Barnett Hancock, was a hoarder, or compulsive collector of trash. She might have kept her mom's corpse around because she had trouble accepting the fact that she was dead, Setlow said.

Clearwater Public Safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said no criminal charges resulted from the incident. Improper storage of a human body is a crime, she said, but it appears that responsibility for putting Bunch's corpse in storage rested with Hancock, who is now dead.

With the results of the DNA testing, the case is officially closed, Watts said.

Fancher said Wednesday that a Masonic lodge with ties to Bunch's second husband agreed to pay for transporting the body to its original destination: the churchyard at Summer Hill Baptist Church, near Columbiana, Ala.

Bunch is now buried there next to Hancock, she said.

"Mother and daughter are now up there, side by side," Fancher said.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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