Lakeland woman found dead near dog kennel

11:57 PM, Apr 30, 2012   |    comments
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LAKELAND, Fla. - Diana Mercado, 33, was last seen by her boyfriend around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, as she left the rural home she shared with him, her mother, and her sister, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Mercado was headed to work at the north Lakeland Dunkin' Donuts on U.S. 98 North. Around 8:45 a.m. that same morning, the manager of the restaurant called her home along Pathfinder Trail, a dirt road, to say she was a no-show.

Mercado's family says it didn't worry too much because of her past history. According to the family, Mercado moved to Florida in September 2011 from Massachusetts to get away from a lifestyle of bad influences and drug use.

But around 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, when Mercado still hadn't  returned home, her family called the sheriff's office to report her missing.

Around 6:00 a.m. the next day, her family members found her  vehicle, a black 1999 Chrysler Cirrus, in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank at U.S. 98 and Daughtery Road.

Detectives worked throughout Sunday, until 4:00 a.m. on Monday, April 30, following up leads. On Monday afternoon, though, the Polk County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Crimes Unit got involved to help search the approximately 5-acre piece of land on which Mercado's trailer home sits and that's when a deputy discovered her body.

It was found 35-50 yards behind the home in a wooded area  thick with brush. The body was wrapped up and lying on the ground behind an abandoned dog kennel.

An autopsy is being performed to determine the exact cause of death. Meanwhile, detectives are looking for Mercado's boyfriend, Antonio Vasquez, to speak to him about this latest development.

Neighbors like Diane Butts and Summer Bradley are stunned. Bradley says, "To hear that somebody's been murdered or is dead even...it's shocking."

Greg Watford and his wife raised their son in the neighborhood. Watford says, "It's the country living out here. It's nice and peaceful."

Several other neighbors out riding their horses Monday evening wanted to know what all the law enforcement presence was about. Many of them say crime is low and that the area is normally a very safe place.

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