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Suicide mistaken for mannequin, trashed

Hernando County sheriff’s investigators concluded Thursday that a “very unusual death investigation” was the result of a suicide.

Workers cleaning out a home at 6527 Treehaven Drive in Spring Hill thought they found a mannequin hanging in the garage on Thursday morning and took it with of a pile of debris in the back of a pickup truck to the dump, said Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Employees at the West Hernando Transfer Station, 2525 Osowaw Blvd, questioned the workers about the body but were told it was a mannequin, Nienhuis said.

They called authorities and deputies found the “somewhat mummified” remains of Jeremy Witsoth, 33, in a bin at the landfill, Nienhuis said.

Authorities found a suicide note scrawled on the wall at the home on Treehaven Drive that Witsoth shared with his then girlfriend and several children before they broke up and were evicted. They believe Witsoth hung himself in the garage and had been dead for several weeks but not more than a 1 1⁄2 months, Nienhuis said.

The home’s owners went to the home on Wednesday and saw something hanging in the garage but thought it was a hoax by the former tenants who were angry because they were evicted, Nienhuis said. “They thought it was a Halloween prop or mannequin left hanging in the garage as a cruel hoax by the former tenants,” Nienhuis said.

The Hernando County Property Appraiser lists the home’s owner as Jean-Marie Rooby, who could not be located for comment.

The house was in complete disarray “like something you would see on (the TV show) ‘Hoarders’” with dead rodents and trash everywhere, Nienhuis said.

When Israel Lopez, 50 and Adam Hines, 36, of Zephyrhills arrived to clean out the home, they thought the body was a prank as well, so they loaded some trash in their pickup, put the body on top of the pile and Lopez drove to the dump, Nienhuis said.

“We can’t believe we didn’t get a call about a body on the back of a pickup truck going down Springhill Drive,” Nienhuis said. “The whole thing is hard to believe.”

Lopez arrived at the dump with another load while deputies were investigating and he was detained.

Deputies are still investigating but no charges had been filed by Thursday evening, Nienhuis said.

Several neighbors on Treehaven said they thought the house was vacant. The grass in the front yard was nearly waist-high in some areas, while an open garage door showed toys, clothes and trash strewn across the floor.

Mitchell Brittin, who lives next-door, said that a family with several children lived at the address, but he had little contact with the family.

“We don’t really take to the neighbors very well, because we had some bad experiences in the past,” he said. “I’d hear some arguing every now and then. I’m not allowed to smoke in the house, and they always kept their back door open, so I’d hear it sometimes.”

Neighbor Yolanda Rodriguez said she had not seen anyone at the house in a couple of months.

“There would be a bunch of people over there, kids and everything,” she said.

Rodriguez said she noticed a strong smell of garbage coming from the house recently.

Fred Simerson, who has lived in the area for seven years, said the neighborhood is generally pretty quiet.

“There was a guy and his family living there a couple of months ago, but they got thrown out,” Simerson said. “I saw him come back later for some of his stuff, but it looks like they left a bunch of it.”

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