Body in parking lot mistaken for April Fools' prank

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The body of a 96-year-old woman found in the parking lot of an apartment complex was mistaken as an April Fools' prank and put in a dumpster outside an apartment complex, according to St. Petersburg Police.

Detectives say a Peterborough Apartment clerk, 61-year-old Ronald Benjamin, saw the body at the 4th Avenue North southside parking lot during a smoke break around 4:30 a.m. Thinking it was a prank, he did not alert anyone and returned to his desk duties.

Then, around 6:30 a.m., another employee arrived to work at the apartment complex, saw the woman's body and told the same clerk, who informed her it was just a prank.

After that, the clerk took the body -- still thinking it was a mannequin -- and put the body in a city dumpster with the help of a couple delivering newspapers. It wasn't until about 8 a.m. when an apartment maintenance worker arrived and looked into the dumpster that the distinction was made that it was, in fact, not a mannequin.

Detectives say they've learned that the woman had been depressed and suicidal. A suicide note was also discovered in her apartment.

They believe the clerk and another man who assisted in moving the victim possibly mistook the victim for a mannequin because rigor mortis had set in.

A friend of the woman, Nancy Sanborn, described the victim as "absolutely delightful." She loved reading, and was heavily involved in the complex's library. She was well-liked in the building, and had lived there many years.

10 News has chosen to withhold the victim's name until next of kin is notified.

At the apartment, a makeshift memorial of flowers, cards and mementos piled up near the spot where the victim landed.

Detectives say the desk clerk earnestly believed the victim's body was a mannequin and that blood found at the scene was faked as part of an elaborate practical April Fools' joke.

No charges have been filed. Benjamin was unavailable for comment.

Management on-site say they're all "saddened" by the tragic event, and will have no comment until Friday morning.


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