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Largo police investigating homeless woman's death as murder

LARGO — A homeless woman whose body was found burned in a trash bin in October had gasoline in her lungs and police are now investigating the death as a possible murder.

The focus of the investigation was revealed this week in a search warrant filed Monday in Pinellas County.

Jennifer Lee Guthrie, 26, was found dead in a burning trash bin at 14147 Walsingham Road about 8 p.m. Oct. 9.

According to the warrant, a witness said she saw "a white male holding a milk jug in his hand and pouring something into the fire."

Near Guthrie's body, Largo police found a red and gray suitcase-style duffle bag with zippered pockets. Inside one of the pockets, which was open when police arrived, investigators saw what appeared to be a plastic bottle.

Largo police and the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office declined to release additional information Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.

"We pulled the search warrant because we're conducting an investigation into the death of the lady and as part of the process we needed to find out the contents of the bag," said Largo police spokesman Lt. Mike Loux.

Police interviewed a man who was taken to Sun Coast Hospital after the fire with burns to his hands, ankles and forehead.

According to the document, the man told police he was Guthrie's boyfriend and that he was with her when the incident happened. He also said the duffel bag belonged to him.

The St. Petersburg Times is not naming the man because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

A preliminary autopsy report indicated there were no signs of trauma to Guthrie's body other than severe burns.

Further investigation by the Medical Examiner's Office revealed the presence of gasoline in Guthrie's lungs. The medical examiner has not publicly released a cause or manner of death, but the warrant says Guthrie "burned to death."

An arson-detecting dog found no accelerant.

But the search warrant shows Largo police are investigating the possibility the fire was intentionally set or accelerated.

Largo police investigating homeless woman's death as murder 12/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010 10:49pm]
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