TAMPA — A man walking Sunday in a dense strip of weed-choked woods north of Sligh Avenue came across a set of bones scattered on the ground.
That led to a call to Tampa police, who had the area marked with crime scene tape as they sifted for more bones and signs of how they ended up there and who they came from.
Police confirmed Monday afternoon that the bones were human. But they said there were no obvious signs of foul play, and it could be days or weeks before more is known about the cause of death.
Into Monday afternoon, a caravan of forensics trucks and homicide detectives ventured into the thick brush, sifting the soil to investigate. A team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida was assisting the detectives, police said.
Officials were unable to give a description of exactly what was found or how many bones were among the vines and moss that shaded the canopy. The woods sprout along a narrow strip, about 200 feet long from north to south, bordering Rowlett Park Drive on the east and a set of railroad tracks to the west.
The man who found the bones was homeless, police said. Those who live in the area, a mix of residential streets and smaller industrial complexes, said that particular stretch of woods is known as a camping spot for transients.
As the midday sun soaked into the cracked asphalt along Rowlett Park Drive, passing cars slowed and drivers turned their heads to get a glimpse of the search.
Pedestrians likewise stopped along the sidewalk to gaze between the trees.
"I just wanted to make sure it wasn't anyone we knew," said Sarah Royal, who was driving through the area Monday with her 12-year-old son, Marcellous Royal Jr. "That's one of the reasons I stopped to be nosy."
Royal, 48, who says she is familiar with some of the people who frequent the woods, got out and walked to where the crime scene tape hung on bushes. She peered deep into the woods. She saw lots of yellow evidence markers, she said. And investigators were hunched over, scanning the ground, loading items into cardboard boxes.
"We looked around real good and there was no body," Royal said. "Just a whole lot of those little evidence markers. Most definitely you got the vibe that something happened there."