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A Tampa-area family's long wait for answers about the disappearance of their husband and father has come to an end.
The Tallahassee Police Department announced this week that skeletal remains had been found in a wooded area off Apalachee Parkway, a commercial road dotted with strip malls and hotels on the east side of the city. Shortly thereafter, they announced that, with information received from the local medical examiner's office, they had identified the deceased as Jason Winoker, 52, of Land O' Lakes — about 20 miles north of Tampa — according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Winoker disappeared from the SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Aug. 17, 2021, which is about one-third of a mile down the the Apalachee Parkway and across the street from where his remains were found. His wife, Renee, told the local CBS affiliate WCTV at the time that the two were asleep in their room at around 1:00 a.m. when Jason woke up, grabbed his wallet and room key, and left without his phone.
She said he seemed "disoriented," and told Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA the following month that he acted "irritable."
"I don’t think I thought much of it in the moment because it wasn’t that weird for [him] to go down to the lobby or something," she told WCTV.
But Jason wasn't there when she woke up or when she went back to the hotel in the evening. Eventually, she reported him missing.
"I don’t really know what he was thinking that night so of course my imagination run wild but I’m going to hope that he’s okay,” she told the stations.
“It’s like, could he have fallen in a dumpster or assaulted? Could he have been hit over the head and have amnesia?” she told WFLA in September 2021, noting that he didn't have a car key and there had been no activity on his credit or debit cards.
In a missing persons flyer the family created, they listed him as having an internal cardiac defibrillator visible on his left side.
The couple had been in Tallahassee to drop their eldest daughter — one of their four children — off at Florida State University, which is about four miles west of their hotel, according to WFLA.
Renee said the Tallahassee police told her they had conducted an extensive search of the area surrounding the hotel.
“The police, with their dogs, have searched the one-mile area around the hotel,” she told the station last year. “They have used cadaver dogs, they’ve used drones and they’ve used dogs specific to his scent, but they haven’t been able to pick up on a solid trail.”
Winoker's body was found on Monday afternoon by a group of people "searching for artifacts" in the wooded area off Apalachee Parkway, which is bordered by a series of strip malls on its south side and residential housing on its other sides. It's well within the radius of the area police told his widow that they'd searched last year.
"At this time, we have no idea when he would have been in that wooded area," Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson Alicia Hill told the Democrat.
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