ST. PETERSBURG — A severely decomposed body found surrounded by alligators in Lake Maggiore on the Fourth of July has been identified as 16-year-old Jarvis Deliford.
St. Petersburg police did not list a cause of death, though they found “no obvious signs of foul play.” Detectives are still waiting for an official autopsy report, which could take six to eight weeks.
“Jarvis did not deserve that,” said Deliford’s sister, Laporsha Smalls. “Jarvis was not a nasty-hearted person.”
Deliford went missing June 29, the day he left a juvenile detention facility in Clearwater where he was sent for a probation violation related to an earlier burglary arrest, said police Lt. Matthew Furse.
The teen cut off his ankle monitor that evening in his mother’s home on Paris Avenue, jumped out a window and ran away. Shedding the monitor prompted police to contact his family to figure out where he had gone.
Police found the ankle monitor at the home and are trying to understand why Deliford was at the St. Petersburg lake.
“There haven’t been any signs of homicidal violence,” Furse said at a news conference Saturday.
Smalls, 27, isn’t so sure. She thinks someone killed Deliford.
“Jarvis isn’t an ordinary child. He doesn’t go to beaches, he doesn’t even play around water. He doesn’t know how to swim,” Smalls said. “They left him there to die, and to get eaten by alligators.”
St. Petersburg resident Otis Crawford, 57, and his partner, Patricia Kays, 60, found the body at about 8 a.m. Thursday, after witnesses saw alligators dragging it through mangroves at the lake.
“It was hard to tell if it was a person or an animal,” Crawford said. “I got out of the car to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing.”
A police spokeswoman initially said the body was so decomposed that “we’re unable to tell anything about it — gender or race or anything.”
On Friday, police identified Deliford using fingerprints. It’s still unclear if the 16 year old died at the lake, Furse said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trapped and killed two alligators at Lake Maggiore on Thursday, part of the effort to find evidence related to the case.
Deliford, who attended Gibbs High School, lived in St. Petersburg his whole life, Smalls said. Four years ago, he moved with his mother to the Paris Avenue home, which is about 1 mile from the lake. Smalls said her family is planning to start a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Deliford’s funeral.
“I’m going to find out who did this to my brother,” Smalls said. “I can just try to fight to bring whoever did this to justice.”
Contact Sam Ogozalek at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3430. Follow @SamOgozalek .