St. Petersburg, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — A housing complex clerk mistook an elderly suicide jumper’s body for an April Fools’ Day joke before the woman’s body was nonchalantly disposed in a nearby dumpster under the assumption her corpse was a mannequin.
Stepping out for a smoke break outside the senior-living Peterborough Apartments around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, desk clerk and nine-year employee Ronald Benjamin saw a shape lying on the patio, The Tampa Bay Times reports. Concluding it was just an April Fools’ Day joke, he left what he thought was just a mannequin laying on the ground, and went back to work.
Two hours later, another complex employee asked Benjamin about the shape, and he assured her it was just a prank.
A woman and her son later came to deliver The Tampa Bay Times newspapers, and Benjamin asked for the boy’s help in moving the mannequin into a nearby dumpster. Grabbing the clothes and shoes, the two heaved the “ball of whitish-gray hair” that “weighed almost nothing” into the dumpster, reports The Times.
It wasn’t until around 8 a.m. that an apartment maintenance worker looked into the dumpster realized that it was actually the body of a depressed 96-year-old resident who had jumped 16 stories to her death in the night.
Benjamin was called back after his shift ended to account for the incident, and the 61-year-old employee was shocked.
“It’s all I’ve thought about all day,” Benjamin told a Times reporter at his home Wednesday evening. “I haven’t slept all day.”
“I’m telling you, I swear to God, the face looked like a rubber mask,” Benjamin told The Times. “If I thought for one instant it was a real person I would have called the police, my manager, everyone I could think of.”
Benjamin said that the woman’s face appeared rubbery and formless, “like a Halloween mask discarded on the ground,” he told The Times. He said the bars had closed about an hour before he’d seen the figure and dismissed it as something tossed onto the property as part of an April Fools’ Day prank.
Police said they believe Benjamin’s account and are not planning any criminal charges, however Benjamin was fired from his position by the complex.
Authorities said the elderly woman had left a suicide note, and her name had not been released as they look to notify family members.
— Benjamin Fearnow
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