CLEARWATER — Police are investigating the death of an 85-year-old woman whose body was found in a wooded area Monday hours after officials discovered her missing from a retirement home.
Lydia Jermann, who had dementia, was last seen asleep in her bed at about 3:30 a.m. Monday at the Highland Terrace Assisted Living Facility.
Highland Terrace ALF is not a locked-down facility, and Jermann could have left on her own at any time, police said.
Facility officials noted Jermann usually checks out when she leaves, but she didn't on Monday. She did not have access to a car and used a walker to get around, police said.
Officials reported her missing just before 2 p.m. Monday. It was unclear why it took until then to report Jermann missing.
Tom Groesbeck, a facility spokesman, said in an email that federal medical privacy laws prevented him from making any specific comments about the situation.
"The facility is cooperating fully with local law enforcement's investigation," Groesbeck said. "Our hearts go out to the family during this very difficult time."
Police, including a sheriff's helicopter, and volunteers fanned out to search for the woman after the call was made to report her missing.
A detective found her body at about 4:30 p.m. Monday at a creek near 1550 Lotus Path, less than half a mile away from her apartment at the ALF on Jeffords Street.
The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office will perform an autopsy.
Her family members, who live out of state, could not be reached for comment Monday night.