Heather Anne Lacey’s body was recovered in a discarded freezer removed from the apartment of another man who had died in February
The body of a Florida woman missing for nearly six years has been found in an upright freezer that wound up in the warehouse of a scrap business — leaving authorities to investigate who put her there and how she died.
In March, Lilian Argueta found Lacey’s body when she opened the freezer that had been delivered to her business in Margate from an apartment in Hollywood, Florida, reports the Sun-Sentinel.
“I thought it was a witch, or a mannequin,” Argueta told the newspaper, explaining that she screamed. “I thought, ‘It can’t be a person.’ But there was a bad odor.”
The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains by Lacey’s fingerprints. Still unknown, according to the medical examiner’s office, is how or when Lacey died.
Argueta said the business that she owns with her husband had acquired the discarded and unopened freezer to be used for scrap, according to NBC Miami.
Lacey had a history of drug abuse, and last was spotted in the area of Deerfield Beach, according to The Charley Project, which notes that many law enforcement agencies list the date of her disappearance as June 10, 2013.
She was a mother of two whose family said her descent into addiction began with painkillers after a difficult Caesarean section surgery during the birth of one of her children, reports the Sun-Sentinel. Arrests for drug possession and prostitution followed, and she served time in prison for a conviction of forgery and identity theft.
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“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,” Lacey’s mother Patti Palumbo told the newspaper. “It put us in a cycle that led us here.”
Before it turned up in the scrap warehouse, the freezer had been located in the Hollywood apartment of man who had been found dead in that apartment last February.
Jonathan Escarzaga, 36, was discovered dead in his apartment Feb. 17 after a neighbor complained of foul odor. But the decomposition of his body prevented the medical examiner from determining his cause of death.
The building manager who had the apartment cleaned out said he didn’t know how long the freezer had been inside, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He had an appliance refurbishing company remove the appliances, and the freezer later wound up at the warehouse of the scrap company owned by Argueta and her husband, Pedro Rodriguez.
Lacey’s family members said they did not know Escarzaga, and police have not publicly revealed any connection between the two, reports the Sun-Sentinel.
The discovery nonetheless ends Lacey’s family’s hopes for a different outcome. They’d taken over care of Lacey’s children and, despite her struggles, had kept in regular touch with her until she disappeared.
“I didn’t realize how much grieving I had to start doing,” said Palumbo. “Now it hits home, it opens it all up again.”