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'GIRL IN THE TRUNK' ELUDED HIM

The retired homicide detective was still trying the wrap up a 40-year-old murder mystery.

Homicide Detective William Carlisle Jr. solved many cases during his career with the St. Petersburg Police Department.

But the case that he always remembered was one he didn't solve - the so-called girl in the trunk. She was found on Halloween in 1969, dressed in a green nightgown, wrapped in plastic, inside a steamer trunk beneath a tree. There were no suspects in her death, and she was never identified.

Then, this February, Mr. Carlisle, 83, got a bit of hope. He had stood by when she was buried. And he stood by as her body was exhumed so samples could be taken for DNA testing.

But Mr. Carlisle died June 29 before any of the tests were completed. He was no closer to solving the mystery than he had been 40 years before.

"That was a thorn in his side for years," said Bill "Snake" Johnson, a former St. Petersburg police officer.

Former Pinellas Park police Chief David Milchan, who served on the St. Petersburg police force with Mr. Carlisle, agreed, saying, "Bill talked about that a lot. ... That was on his mind right up until the last. That consumed a lot of his time on duty and off duty. He really wanted to solve that case."

Although Mr. Carlisle fretted about that one case, he did not let it interfere with his job.

Johnson said Mr. Carlisle gave him much valuable advice when he joined the department.

Mr. Carlisle told him: "You have to have a brain. ... you have to have a heart. ... But, Bill, the most important thing is, you have to have a stomach ... a gut feeling. ... Follow your gut feeling and you'll never go wrong."

When Johnson heard that Mr. Carlisle had died, he said, "That's the first thing that popped into my mind. ... He was such a dear friend."

Johnson said Mr. Carlisle was heavily involved in community activities.

"I don't know where he found time to do it all," Johnson said.

He played golf. He was a Rays fan. He coached Little League for 25 years. He refereed high school football and basketball and college basketball for more than 40 years.

It was during one of those games that his sense of humor showed.

Mr. Carlisle threw a flag on a play and one of the coaches said, "You stink." Mr. Carlisle picked up the flag and moved about 15 feet away, said David Sackreiter, a former St. Petersburg police officer.

Then, he turned around and said, "How do I smell from here?"

Mr. Carlisle was born in Hickory, Pa. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1956. He was a homicide detective for 20 years.

After retiring, Mr. Carlisle became a criminal justice instructor at the police academy.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

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BIOGRAPHY

William "Bill" Carlisle Jr.

Born: July 3, 1926

Died: June 29, 2010

Survivors: Wife Mary Beth; daughter Kim and her husband Bill Clayton; two grandchildren; a brother; and three nephews.

A memorial service was held July 2. Send donations to: Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 301 37th Ave. N St. Petersburg, FL 33704, or Sun Coast Center Inc., c/o Parent-Aide Program, P.O. Box 10970, St. Petersburg, FL 33733.

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