Saturday, January 20, 2018
Public safety

Hernando utility workers say they had no doubt: 'This is a dead body'

SPRING HILL — For Hernando County utilities employees Thomas Hirchak and Carmine Dorsi, there was no mistaking what was brought to the West Hernando Convenience Center on Thursday morning in the bed of a white pickup.

The man driving the truck believed he was dropping off a mannequin, but the workers saw signs of humanity — and death — everywhere.

There was the discolored skin. The body's heft. The tattoo on one of the legs. And the smell.

"This is not a prop," Hirchak said. "This is a dead body."

Sheriff's deputies said two workers who had been hired to clean out a house in Spring Hill mistakenly dumped the body of 33-year-old Jeremy Witfoth at one of the county's garbage and recycling dropoff stations, believing it was a mannequin or some kind of prop.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis said Witfoth is believed to have hanged himself in the garage of a home he was renting at 6527 Treehaven Drive sometime in the past several weeks. All of the evidence indicates that no crime was committed, Nienhuis said.

Israel Lopez, 50, and Adam Hines, 36, were hired to clean the vacant house after the homeowners recently retained possession of it. While cleaning, the men saw what they both believed to be a lifelike mannequin hanging from the ceiling in the garage. Nearby, a suicide note was scrawled on the wall. The two men cut down the body and placed it in the pickup, along with other trash.

Lopez drove it to the transfer station.

When he got to the gate, he told Hirchak that he was just throwing away trash. Hirchak said that the body was buried under black contractor bags in the bed of the pickup and that he initially didn't see the body. He pointed Lopez up the hill to the furniture Dumpster.

Once Lopez got there, he began off-loading the truck, said Dorsi, who was overseeing the station.

Dorsi said he saw what looked like a body and was told it was a Halloween prop.

The body was partially covered with black plastic bags. The skin had dried.

"It looked like a man," Dorsi said.

When Lopez asked for a hand moving the body to the Dumpster, Dorsi said no way.

"I ain't touching that, buddy," he recalled saying.

He said the stench was overwhelming.

Dorsi went to get his co-worker, Hirchak, from the front gate to get a second opinion. By the time they returned, Lopez had left.

Hirchak went to inspect, pulling away the bags that were on top. He quickly came to the same conclusion.

Both county workers expressed surprise that nobody noticed the mannequin was, in fact, a human.

"You gotta be pretty damn stupid, I'll tell you what," Dorsi said.

Hirchak described the workers as "naive."

"How can you not realize what this was, especially if it was hanging from a beam in a garage?" he asked.

Neither Lopez nor Hines could be reached Friday for comment.

Very little is known about Witfoth.

Authorities say his family had not spoken to him since June, and no missing-person report had been filed.

A family member contacted by the Times on Friday said he was not ready to talk about what had happened. Other family members at a home in New Port Richey declined to comment.

Times staff writer Jon Silman contributed to this report. Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Published: 01/20/18

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Published: 01/20/18

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Published: 01/20/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report. Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drownin...
Published: 01/19/18
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Published: 01/19/18
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Published: 01/19/18