A jogger in St. Petersburg, Florida ran across a gruesome discovery Tuesday morning when they found a human head on the side of the road near an intersection on the south side of the city.
According to St. Pete Police, the jogger called them a little after 7 a.m. to report the finding. Police arrived and closed off the area to traffic as they began their investigation.
St. Pete Police spokesperson Sandra Bentil told Heavy that the head was very badly decomposed, so it’s not obvious whether it belonged to a man or a woman. She said with this being such “unchartered territory,” she wasn’t sure how long it would take the medical examiner to identify the person.
“This doesn’t happen often,” Bentil said adding, “The investigation is definitely underway.”
Bentil said they don’t have much information at the moment but more will be released when it’s available.
This is Not the First Time Body Parts Were Found in South St. Pete
Another St. Pete case of unidentified partial human remains was the case of 16-year-old Jarvis Deliford. On July 4, 2019, a couple saw what looked like human parts being dragged by an alligator through the mangroves in St. Pete’s Lake Maggiori in South St. Pete.
In that tragic story, it only took a day or two to identify the remains and once the identity was made it only deepened the mystery because Deliford, who was last seen on June 29, could not swim and reportedly would not be hanging around a lake or near water, according to his family, who suspected foul play The Tampa Bay Times reported. That incident is still unsolved.
The location where the decaying head was found Tuesday was in a residential area near an overpass where Interstate 275 runs through South St. Pete, which is a historically African-American area of the city due to Jim Crow Laws, a set of rules established after the abolition of slavery that were designed to keep Black people segregated. Jim Crow laws ended in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, but South St. Pete is still an area where a large majority of African American’s call home.
According to Bentil, the area where the head was found is nowhere near a lake.
It Could Take Up to Two Months to Identify the Remains
According to the website Crime Museum, the tasks of identifying remains is more difficult after decomposition sets in, but in the St. Pete case, there may be dental records.
The first way they try to identify bodies is via fingerprints, and if those aren’t available they try dental records. It is not known whether the discovered head still had teeth, however, “bone structures of the jaw, roots of the teeth, and sinuses are all unique to an individual, making information gathered from dental records very useful in forensic odontology,” according to Crime Museum.
Another way they’ll try to identify who the head belonged to is through DNA forensics. In cases of DNA identification, it’s important to be able to link the DNA of the deceased to something from when they were alive unless their DNA is in a searchable database. ABC 10 reports DNA results can take up to six to eight weeks.
But according to Crime Museum, “In some cases, a positive identification cannot be made. In these cases, a presumptive identification must be made in order to continue with the death investigation and the disposition of the remains.”
Heavy reached out to the Pinellas County Medical Examiner to find out how long they expect it to take to identify the head and if there is any more information they can share. This story will be updated with any new information.