Authorities in South Florida are trying to figure out how a woman who went missing nearly six years ago ended up in an upright freezer that was brought to a scrap metal warehouse in February. The Sun Sentinel reports the scrap metal company’s owner called police after making the discovery in March. The medical examiner later identified the body as 30-year-old Heather Anne Lacey.
Lacey’s family lost contact with her in 2013. The medical examiner was withholding autopsy results and it wasn’t clear how the woman died, the paper reports.
Her body may not have been discovered but for the February death of Jonathan Escarzaga, 36, whose decomposing body was found in an apartment in nearby Hollywood, Florida.
The apartment manager hired Lilian Argueta’s company to take away the appliances, including the freezer. They were stored in a warehouse until Argueta opened the freezer about a month later. Argueta told the paper she at first thought the body might be a mannequin.
“I thought, ‘It can’t be a person,'” Argueta said. “But there was a bad odor.”
Hollywood police are investigating. They said Escarzaga was a freelance airplane mechanic. The medical examiner’s office couldn’t determine how he died. An autopsy didn’t detect drugs in his system and there were reportedly no signs of recent injuries.
The newspaper reported that the building manager didn’t know how long the freezer had been inside Escarzaga’s apartment. He said Escarzaga had not called for any repairs since 2017.
Police haven’t said when Escarzaga and Lacey died or whether they knew each other. Her family says they didn’t know of him. It’s also not known how long Lacey’s body was in a freezer.
Lacey was divorced and the mother of three children, the paper reports. Her family told the paper she attended college and held down a several jobs, but struggled with drug abuse and got involved with prostitution.
“She was a very smart girl and had a lot going for her and unfortunately, her downfall was getting into drugs, doing drugs and being addicted,” Patti Palumbo, Lacey’s mother, told the paper. “It put her in a cycle that led us here.”