Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Skull mysteriously ends up in St. Petersburg man's closet

ST. PETERSBURG — As Steven Blackwell's neighbors searched his house for money to bail him out of jail, they found rooms full of chains, pornography and knives.

They also found something even more unsettling — a human skull.

It was identified Friday as that of Allen Garner, a homeless Hills­borough County man who was found beaten to death in 2003.

But how it ended up in Blackwell's closet has sheriff's deputies puzzled.

They thought it was safely with the medical examiner.

Garner's skeletal remains — his skull among them — were found in a wooded area in Tampa, said J.D. Callaway, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

And Ronald L. Rhodes, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in his killing. He is now in state prison serving a life sentence, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.

The remains, meanwhile, were transported to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office years ago, deputies said.

So how did his skull wind up in a St. Petersburg closet?

"We have no clue," Callaway said in a telephone interview. "The last we knew, it was at the medical examiner's office."

A spokesman for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Blackwell, 40, told police that a friend gave him the skull several years ago. He was arrested June 3 after a sting in which he is accused of selling cocaine to an undercover officer while toting a machine gun. He was also found to have methamphetamine and marijuana, and was held on $60,650 bail, records show.

Blackwell called and asked his neighbor Glenn Parker, 34, to go through his house looking for money or things to sell to help him pay for bail.

It wasn't an unusual request. Parker said he had done other small favors in the time they'd lived next to each other.

But Parker and his friend Kerry Sedlock, who went with him, were shocked by what they found in Blackwell's room. They said they saw stacks of pornographic magazines, sex toys, chains, handcuffs, knives, swords and machetes scattered throughout the house.

And a box in the closet holding the skull, with bits of flesh still stuck to it.

Parker called the sheriff's office, and detectives sent the skull in for testing.

"He was into some dangerous stuff," Parker said. "I thought he was all right until I saw the skull."

Times staff writer Thomas Kaplan contributed to this report. Andrew Dunn can be reached at or (727) 893-8150.

Skull mysteriously ends up in St. Petersburg man's closet 08/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 2, 2008 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco OKs higher fee for drainage work

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Trying to keep neighborhoods drier is going to cost Pasco County property owners some extra dollars.

    Commissioner Mike Wells Jr., who voted against a higher storm-water fee in February, supported the increase this time. "Bottom line: It's needed,'' he said.
  2. Florida Gators announce 2018 football schedule


    The Florida Gators announced their 2018 football schedule Tuesday, including an early SEC game against Kentucky and a matchup against Colorado State, which was part of coach Jim McElwain's buyout from the Rams.

  3. Directors of Haunted Mansion doc talk bringing piece of Disney history to Orlando


    Filmmakers Ryan Grulich and James H. Carter II aren't just casual fans of The Haunted Mansion ride. They're obsessed.

    Publicity still from the Foolish Mortals documentary.
  4. Woman found dead after fire broke out in Hudson home


    HUDSON — An elderly Hudson woman was found dead after a fire broke out at a home Tuesday morning, Pasco County Fire Rescue officials said.

  5. Major earthquake shakes Mexico City


    MEXICO CITY — A powerful earthquake jolted Mexico City on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway sickeningly on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage to the capital.