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Cleaning crew thought suicide victim was a mannequin and took him to the dump

A two man cleaning crew was cleaning out a rental home in Spring Hill, Florida, when they came across what they believed to be a Halloween-style mannequin hanging in the garage. The two men cut down what they thought was a mannequin, loaded it atop a pickup truck filled with other refuse from the home and transported their load to the local landfill at the West Hernando garbage transfer station. Unfortunately, according to a July 18 report from Reuters, the mannequin turned out to be the mummified remains of 33-year-old Jeremy Witfoth who had hanged himself in the garage several weeks prior.

Police say the cleaning crew made an honest mistake.
Jeremy Witfoth / Hernando County Sheriff's Office

Workers at the landfill are credited with realizing that what they saw in their dump was an actual corpse and contacted the authorities. Denise Moloney with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that the foul odor coming off the corpse gave workers at the landfill their first clue. Deputies investigating the case interviewed the cleaning crew and “decided they were telling the truth and not trying to cover up foul play.” Maloney added that the whole story was unbelievable.

"He was laying right on top of all the garbage," in the bed of a pickup truck, Moloney said. "Anyone trying to hide a body, or trying to dispose of a dead body, would probably not do that.

Witfoth’s remains were found hanging in that garage on July 17, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis addressed the incident at a press conference the same day saying that when Israel Lopez, 50, and Adam Hines, 36, were cleaning out the vacant rental property on Treehaven Drive, they had a real mess on their hands.

The sheriff said that the condition of the house could have been taken straight from an episode of TV’s “Hoarders.” In addition to general disarray at the property, Nienhuis said that “Dead rodents filled the house and the workers believed that was the source of a foul smell.”

When Lopez and Hines saw Witfoth hanging in the garage, they simply thought the mummified remains were a mannequin. In a statement released by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, officials wrote that "Both individuals as well as the property owners believed the lifelike mannequin was a distasteful Halloween-like hoax left by the former renters."

An autopsy on the remains is scheduled for today. For more on the story, see the video accompanying this article.

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