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Police identify body as missing Tampa man

Bystanders outside the Tampa home of Emilio Martinez-Rodriguez on Thursday watch through a window as a newscast announces the discovery of a body, believed to be his, discovered off of Orient Road north of Sligh Avenue. Martinez-Rodriguez, whose body was identified by the medical examiner Friday, disappeared Dec. 15 while picking up Chinese food.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Bystanders outside the Tampa home of Emilio Martinez-Rodriguez on Thursday watch through a window as a newscast announces the discovery of a body, believed to be his, discovered off of Orient Road north of Sligh Avenue. Martinez-Rodriguez, whose body was identified by the medical examiner Friday, disappeared Dec. 15 while picking up Chinese food.

TAMPA — Kacee Martinez worried about the baby inside her.

Fifteen weeks pregnant, she had spent days awaiting word about her husband, Emilio, who disappeared Dec. 15 while picking up Chinese food.

Her fears were confirmed on Thursday, when Tampa police officers told her they had found a body and the car he was driving. Anxious about the effects on her pregnancy, she went to St. Joseph's Women's Hospital for a checkup.

There, through an ultrasound, she received news that made her happy. "She found out it is a boy," said her father, Andy Urso. "It's what he wanted. She thought it was divine."

On Friday, Urso told his daughter's story from the couple's front porch in central Tampa while Kacee remained in the house, consoled by friends and relatives.

It was a lot to process, he said. There is the baby to prepare for, the Christmas holiday and a memorial service that will likely take place early next week at Grace Family Church in Lutz.

And, in addition to the family's grief, there is a renewed desire to find out how 34-year-old Emilio Martinez-Rodriguez died, and why.

Urso said the police did not give any details, not even cause of death.

"That is certainly okay with us," he said. "We would not want anything to curtail their investigation. We don't want to mess that up."

Police officials would not comment Friday, issuing only a short statement saying that the medical examiner had used X-rays to confirm the body found outside a mosque off Sligh Avenue was Martinez-Rodriguez. A maintenance man for the mosque found Martinez-Rodriguez's car, which appeared to have been doused with bleach.

While Martinez-Rodriguez never made it back inside his W Dallas Avenue home, a neighbor had seen a suspicious person on their quiet street the night he disappeared. A neighbor's surveillance video showed Martinez-Rodriguez's gray Toyota Camry heading toward the house. And someone left Kacee's favorite brand of root beer at the door.

Urso said he cannot imagine why anyone would want to hurt his son-in-law, a military veteran who worked as a trucking company supervisor.

He suspects Martinez-Rodriguez got out of the car and was then forced back inside at gunpoint.

"It must be someone who wanted to hurt him for whatever reason," he said.

But who? And why?

"We had asked about associates," Urso said. "We did not come up with anything. We've asked and the police have asked."

The family is now hoping someone will come forward who can help solve the mystery. They are reassured by the high level of public interest when Martinez-Rodriguez was missing.

"We really hope the buzz gets out," Urso said. "We'll find out who did this. We have to be patient and go through the steps that get this person caught."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 624-2739 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Information needed

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Emilio Martinez-Rodriguez can call Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or report it online at crimestopperstb.com.

Police identify body as missing Tampa man 12/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 24, 2010 10:44pm]

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