Cause of death not yet determined
LAKELAND, Fla. — A body found Thursday in Plant City is that of missing Florida Lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare of Lakeland, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office confirmed yesterday.
The body was identified through fingerprints, said Debbie Carter, Hillsborough County Sheriff spokeswoman.
"The cause of death has not been determined at this time, and we do not anticipate having a cause of death until Monday," she said. "The detectives have completed the search at 5802 S.R. 60 E. and crews are working to fill the excavated area but will remain on scene throughout the weekend."
Investigators found his body under a concrete slab behind a house at 5802 State Road 60 E. Detectives dug the body up after receiving information that Shakespeare was buried there, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Gee said the remains were found more than five feet beneath the ground in a 30-foot-by-30-foot area where homicide investigators had been told to look for Shakespeare's body. The Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office arrived Thursday night and will finish its work today, Gee said. Gee gave no timetable when the body would be positively identified.
"We believed all along the body would be here," he said. "Somebody put that body in that hole, and we're going to get to the bottom of it."
Gee said authorities have a murder investigation on their hands. At the beginning of the investigation that began in Polk County, Judd said his detectives had hoped Shakespeare, missing since April, was alive and that he wanted to hide from those people asking him for money. But as the investigation continued, investigators concluded he "met an untimely death by sinister means and motives," Judd said.
Judd told reporters this week that his agency received good information that Shakespeare's body might have been buried at the Plant City house.
Investigators on Tuesday began searching at two neighboring houses along State Road 60 in Plant City.
Recovering the remains brought to an end the three-day search for a body and possibly the nine-month ordeal for those who wondered what had happened to Shakespeare. The tall, slender man crowned with dreadlocks hadn't been seen by friends since last spring.
Gee said much of the digging behind the house was done by hand because investigators didn't want to disturb evidence by using heavy equipment. Officials from the University of South Florida's Geology Department supervised the dig and used scientific equipment to locate and preserve the body, Gee said.
Richard Land, the former owner of the property, said he sold the house and land to Dorice "DeeDee" Moore, the woman who befriended Shakespeare and who has been identified by Judd as a person of interest in the lottery winner's disappearance.
She paid for the property with a check that was from an account for Abraham Shakespeare LLC, Land said.
According to property records, the house is owned by Shar Krasniqi, whom Judd identified earlier this month as Moore's boyfriend.
The two-story house at 5802 S.R. 60 E. is used by the Stitzel Law Firm LLC. Howard Stitzel is a lawyer who represented Shakespeare in a child-support case. He helped with paperwork that transferred mortgages held by Shakespeare to a company that Moore owned, according to Polk County documents.
The house next door, at 5732 S.R. 60 E., is owned by a Brandon corporation. Land said Moore had leased that house and planned to operate a paintball business there.
Crime scene technicians took evidence Wednesday and Thursday from the red-brick home where the paintball business was to be located.
Glen Lansky, a Brandon lawyer representing Stitzel, said Stitzel had nothing to do with Shakespeare's disappearance nor the buried body. He said Stitzel will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.
Moore has not been charged, and she is not in custody, Judd said.
She could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Shakespeare, 43, was reported missing by a family member in November, and family and friends said they hadn't seen him since April.
Moore, 37, of Lakeland, said Shakespeare disappeared because he wanted to. She told The Ledger in December that she helped him come up with a plan to drop out of sight so he could get away from people who were constantly asking him for money and so he could avoid child-support problems.
Judd has said Moore may have made off with some of Shakespeare's remaining lottery winnings. He said she used Shakespeare's cell phone to make phone calls to herself and others.
Rusty Franklin, a Bartow lawyer who has represented Moore for several weeks, said Thursday night that he no longer represents Moore.
"After careful consideration of my ethical obligation and for reasons that may be disclosed in the future, DeeDee Moore and I have mutually agreed that I will no longer represent her," Franklin said.
Friends and relatives of Shakespeare said they were relieved to learn that he finally may have been found.
Eddie Dixon, a longtime friend who used to hang out with him at the Super Choice Food Mart on West Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland, said he suspected from the beginning that Shakespeare had been killed.
"All I want is those involved to go to jail," he said. "They deserve whatever the law can give them."
Cynthia Johnson, Shakespeare's cousin, waited throughout the day Thursday at the scene of the digging. She said the discovery of a body brings closure.
"He was a good person, and he was used," Johnson said.
Sentorria Butler, the mother of Shakespeare's 1-year-old son, said Shakespeare didn't deserve what happened to him.
"Whoever did this, I pray the Lord have mercy on their soul, but they are going to suffer," Butler said. "They did this to a person who had a good heart."
Linnette Williams, Shakespeare's sister, who went with him to Tallahassee to claim his lottery winnings, said her brother didn't deserve to die over money.
"I'm hurt but I'm relieved," Williams said, crying. "At least we can give him a proper burial."
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