A Florida woman has been found in her own septic tank after being missing for a week, and her handyman has been arrested and charged with her murder.
Cynthia Cole, 57, was found "submerged in the contents of the tank about four feet underground" by police, believed to have been stuff in there by her long time acquaintance, 34-year-old Keoki Hilo Demich.
According to reports, Cole was last seen at the Jammin Jensen festival in Jensen Beach on February 24th. However, once she left that night to go home, she was never seen again.
Her friend because concerned because Cole was "pretty good with her routines" but began missing appointments. They alerted the Martin County Sheriff's Office, who then issued a persons report.
When detectives visited her home, they noticed that she was having renovations done to add an extended bed and breakfast. However, they did not find any signs of break-in or violence. Seeing no signs of foul play, the detectives were about to leave the property when one "extremely alert" officer noticed that the bolts on her septic tank did not look right.
"He noticed that the bolts holding that riser down didn't look right," Sheriff William Snyder told WPTV. "The dirt was away from them, and I think a couple of them were loose."
"He just keeled down, undid that riser, pulled it back and, unfortunately... he did discover the body of our victim," he continued.
That is where they found her remains, submerged in "all the effluent that comes with that sort of system," and trying to preserve her remains was a grisly challenge according to Snyder.
"It was probably as challenging a crime scene as I've ever seen," he said. "I've been doing this 40+ years, I've never seen anything like it. We had no collective — none of us had any experience in recovering evidence from a septic tank."
"I don't want to be too graphic - but the opening that we could see her remains were not such that we could have taken her out through that," Snyder added.
Police had to call in heavy machinery and septic tank experts as they spent all of Friday night into Saturday morning digging around the tank to access it.
Officers had ropes tied around their waists, lowering them into the pit as they tried to recover the body from four feet of waste inside the 900-gallon tank.
"Had they lost their footing — one did lose his footing — but had one of them gone into that, we would have really been in trouble," the sheriff said. "It took us all night. It was a challenge."
As nothing of note had happened at the festival — Cole hadn't even drank — and because she lived alone, investigators began looking for suspects who possibly knew her... and the very first person of interest would quickly become the prime and only suspect.
"The first person that we really came across that was of interest ... was a person she had known, as far as we know, for years. It was a handyman. Somebody who just helped her. She was a single woman alone, he helped her," Snyder revealed. "From the minute we began talking to him, or fairly soon after we began talking to him, we became suspicious... We got so suspicious we began doing almost around the clock surveillance."
They found Cole's vehicle parked within walking distance of Demich's house, and even found video evidence of him walking away from it. Although initially denying it, he later admitted to driving it.
He gave investigators a "bogus excuse" for driving the car said the sheriff. "He was a conglomerate of falsehoods."
They also do not know how she was killed, pending autopsy. The Sheriff said they later found evidence she was killed in the house, and subsequently moved to the tank.
According to Sheriff Snyder, one of the most perplexing things about the case — the thing that made them instantly suspect foul play — was that "there was nothing about her life that screamed out she was taking unnecessary risks."
He said oftentimes, victims of crimes engage in risky behavior, which can be a contributing factor when something bad happens.
"There was nothing about her life to indicate she was a chance-taker," Snyder said. "She knew the guy for years. She did nothing wrong."
"Human life is the most valuable thing on Earth, and to see a human being in a septic system, it's pretty jarring," he added. "Whenever I see man's inhumanity to man — as long as I've done this — I'm always taken aback by what people will do."
Demich has been charged with second-degree murder, which could be upgraded to first-degree.
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