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@example.com or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.