Woman Missing for 5 Years Found Dead in Old Freezer

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
May 13, 2019USshare
Woman Missing for 5 Years Found Dead in Old Freezer
Police tape in a file photo. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

The body of a woman missing for nearly six years was found in an old freezer that was opened after its owner died.

The strange saga unfolded near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Heather Anne Lacey, a 29-year-old mother-of-two, disappeared in 2013, with her last known location in Deerfield Beach.

A freezer containing the body is believed to have been stored in a Hollywood apartment owned by Jonathan Escarzaga. When the 36-year-old died in February, the freezer was sent to a scrap business in Margate.

Lilian Argueta, 55, co-owner of the business, opened the freezer and saw Lacey’s shriveled body stuffed inside the freezer, reported the South Florida-Sun Sentinel.

“I just heard the commotion and everyone screaming,” Steven Calcano, a mechanic at the business, told the outlet. “I took a glance at [the body] and said, ‘Oh my God,’ and walked away.”

Police had found Escarzaga’s body on Feb. 17 after a neighbor complained of a foul odor from the apartment. The airplane mechanic’s death is also a mystery.

After he was found dead, the manager of the apartment building hired a company to remove all the appliances, including the freezer, and the company took them to its warehouse in Margate before transferring the freezer to Argueta’s business. Argueta finally opened the freezer and saw the body about a month after Escarzaga’s death.

The reason for Lacey’s death has not yet been revealed. A police report obtained by the Sun-Sentinel was heavily redacted.

Reve Walsh and John Walsh speak during The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, the Fraternal Order of the Police and the Justice Department’s 16th Annual Congressional Breakfast at The Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel in Washington on May 18, 2011. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Missing Persons

Over 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Many of the missing adults and children are found safe but others are never found or are found dead.

“It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year,” the center stated.

As of Jan. 22, there were 15,325 open missing person cases in addition to 12,449 open unidentified person cases.

As of Dec. 31, 2017, the National Crime Information Center had over 88,000 active missing person cases across the country. But hundreds of thousands of cases were resolved that year. Approximately 651,000 missing person records were entered, but about the same number were removed.

“Reasons for these removals include: a law enforcement agency located the subject, the individual returned home, or the record had to be removed by the entering agency due to a determination that the record is invalid,” the center stated.

The first 72 hours in a missing person case is the most critical, according to criminology experts. It’s imperative to obtain information through leads before people start to forget about potentially crucial details, Dr. Bryanna Fox, former FBI agent and criminology professor at the University of South Florida, told ABC News.

“The information that law enforcement gets tends to be a little more accurate, and they are able to act on the information and hopefully get that person who is missing quicker,” Fox said. Later, there are fewer “bread crumbs,” or leads, to follow.

Dr. Michelle Jeanis, a criminology professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said that time is an important factor because the missing person could be in danger.

After about a week, the person could very likely be dead, said former FBI Special Agent in Charge Steve Gomez. “There’s a certain point after about a week or two where you have to think, the potential that the missing person is dead and now it’s a matter of trying to find their body and bring closure to the family and to determine if you now have a homicide investigation, or suicide, or some kind of accidental death,” he said.

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