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Three arrested after tip leads to muddy grave

For nearly three weeks, a body lay buried in a Sumter County swamp.

Sitting inside the Pasco County jail on minor charges, Thomas Edward Manos of Port Richey held a secret, investigators say.

That secret, they say, began to unravel on Sunday.

That's when a man was arrested on three warrants at a Cobb County, Ga., homeless camp, officials said. For unknown reasons, the man, whom police did not identify, and a friend of his, Cynthia Ann Black, told police that they knew of a homeless man's killing in Florida.

On Monday, investigators acted on the tip. They dug up a dismembered body from a shallow, mud- and water-filled grave near a Wildwood-area homeless camp.

On Tuesday, they continued to search the scene and performed an autopsy on the body.

On Wednesday, they came to Manos' cell at the Pasco County jail and arrested him on first-degree murder charges. The 54-year-old man, who gave authorities an address of 5701 St. Regis Lane in Port Richey, was the third person arrested on first-degree murder charges in connection with the case.

Black, the 40-year-old tipster, and Patrick Reed, 45, also face the same charge, officials said. Both are homeless.

Sumter County sheriff's detectives still are investigating, and there may be more arrests, Lt. Bobby Caruthers said Thursday. Authorities are not releasing the man's name or how he died. They are searching for his relatives.

"There's somebody out there who would want to know," Caruthers said.

Caruthers said the man was killed July 1 or 2. He probably died after a dispute over money, Caruthers said.

The lieutenant said the man was killed in a homeless camp south and east of the junction of State Road 44 and Interstate 75. They found his body 150 yards from the camp, Caruthers said.

"It was just some tents the transients had put up in the middle of the woods, a makeshift shelter," he said.

At the time the man was buried, the ground was probably dry, Caruthers said. But recent rains forced investigators to use an old military vehicle to drive through mud to the area.

Black led them to the body. She incriminated herself with her statements, Caruthers said. He would not release the information that led to the other two arrests.

After finding the grave on Monday, investigators found Reed in another nearby homeless camp. They arrested him.

At the time deputies say the killing took place, records show that Manos was free from Pasco County jail.

He was arrested on battery charges in April but was released without having to post bail. In May, prosecutors added a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge. In June, he failed to show for a hearing. Sumter County deputies arrested him on Pasco County warrants, and he was booked into Pasco County jail on July 4.

He has been there since.

_ Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or toll-free at 800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is rdavissptimes.com.

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