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Police identify body of man, 38, found in bushes

ST. PETERSBURG — A day after a body was discovered in bushes at a business complex off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N, police identified the man as 38-year-old Robert John Harger.

It was not immediately clear Friday how Harger died, though police have said it did not seem to be the result of a violent crime.

Harger's brother, Nikolas, said that it did not appear he was robbed because his wallet and personal effects were all on him when he was discovered Thursday morning.

The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, police said.

Ryan Walton, 26, was one of two men who discovered the body on the side of Executive Center Drive N amid brush and palm trees. Walton wondered Friday who the man was.

"When I saw him, all I could think was, 'Wow, I can't believe this is happening,'" he said. "It was totally bizarre. I couldn't imagine how he got there."

Walton is a firefighter and Iraq War veteran.

"I've been around death a lot, but for me to come across something like that while I was going about my everyday routine … it was shocking," he said.

The other man, who was walking to work in the complex, called 911, but Walton said he knew it was too late to help the victim.

Police said Harger was a transient, but Nikolas Harger said his brother had been living with a girlfriend in Redington Shores. He said his brother loved the beach and loved to cook. He was working as a waiter.

"He had a big heart," Nikolas Harger said.

Harger leaves behind two siblings and a grown daughter whom he hadn't spoken to in several years.

The family was "in shock" Friday after Harger's sudden death.

According to state records, Harger had a history of drug offenses and assault charges. His family said he had cleaned up his act in recent years.

Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804.

Police identify body of man, 38, found in bushes 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 8:58pm]
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