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Crime News

Feds Identify Woman Found Floating Off Florida Coast Wrapped In Bedding, Trash Bag

Heather Rose Strickland reportedly struggled with mental health issues before she disappeared from a Florida hospital on Dec. 5. Now the FBI is trying to learn how she ended up in the sea. 

By Jax Miller
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Federal officials are appealing for information after a Florida woman was found dead in the water.

Investigators with the FBI’s Tampa Field Office are looking into a suspicious death after a woman — later identified as 34-year-old Heather Rose Strickland — was “found floating” near the shores of Egmont Key, about 13 miles off the coast of Pinellas County, Florida, according to the FBI. A group of fishermen made the grisly discovery on Dec. 10 and notified the United States Coast Guard shortly before noon.

“The body was found wrapped in bedding in a plastic trash bag,” wrote the feds.

Those who found the body attempted to retrieve the bag but soon realized it wasn’t trash, according to CBS Palm Beach affiliate WPEC. The victim’s skin became exposed when the fishermen cut into the bag, as was what appeared to be a bra or bikini strap.

So far, there has been no report on a cause or manner of death.

An FBI handout of Heather Strickland

“We love her very much; she was a kind person,” the victim’s father, John Strickland, told NBC Tampa affiliate WFLA-TV. “She had some problems with mental illness, but she was a kind person, and no person deserves that.”

Strickland, a Clearwater-St. Petersburg-area resident, was last seen on Dec. 5 after leaving the HCA Florida Largo Hospital, about 30 miles north of Egmont Key, according to the FBI. Agents say Strickland was originally from North Florida but had spent the last five years in the area.

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John Strickland and his wife, Sherrie Strickland, told WFLA-TV reporters that they were trying to get their daughter back to north Florida to help her seek treatment for her mental health. Strickland also struggled with substance abuse, John told the Tampa Bay Times.

“One day she would act like she’s 6 years old, and the next day, she was on top of her game,” he said.

“She didn’t deserve this,” added Sherrie, identified by the Times as the victim’s stepmother. “Whatever happens, no person deserves this.”

Sherrie referred to her stepdaughter as a “beautiful girl” who, as a child, had aspirations of one day becoming a model, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Both parents are thankful for the FBI’s work on the case.

“They’re putting up poster boards, they went to the media, they’re doing all they can,” said John. “And they’re already getting clues as we speak on her last known whereabouts and her life circle.”

Sherrie specifically thanked the fishermen who found Strickland’s body, per WFLA-TV.

“She never would have been found,” said Sherrie. “It was God’s making sure justice comes.”

Strickland was the mother of five children, all of whom were reportedly placed for adoption. Now, authorities are appealing for information as they continue investigating the circumstances surrounding Strickland’s case.

“The FBI is asking the public to assist with any information that helps law enforcement piece together the events that led to Strickland’s death,” the FBI stated.

Anyone with information about Strickland’s death is urged to contact the FBI’s Tampa Field Office at 1-813-253-1000 or submit a tip to tips.fbi.gov. You can also contact your local FBI office or your nearest American Embassy or Consulate.