When a manager at a Clearwater storage business told a family they were going to have to auction off the contents of a rented unit for back rent, the family said there would be just one problem: a relative's body was in storage there.
The woman's body had been stored there since 1995, the family said.
The strange announcement brought a swarm of investigators from the Clearwater Police Department and the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Officer to the U-Stor Self Storage, 1217 Lakeview Road.
Officials with the storage business told police the family has rented a storage unit for many years. When the family missed several payments, a U-Stor manager called to say the unit's contents would be auctioned off.
The granddaughter of the woman found in the storage unit called back and told the manager not to sell or auction the contents in the storage unit, said Joelle Castelli, a Clearwater police spokeswoman.
She told the manager that just before her mother died, her mom told her that her grandmother's body had been put in the storage unit in 1995.
"She called and said, 'My mother told me on her death bed that Grandma is in the storage unit. You can't sell our stuff,'" Castelli said.
The manager checked the storage unit and found what appeared to be a casket, police said.
The manager called police. The woman's body, which was prepared for burial and had been placed in the storage unit by her daughter, was in a long blue box with handles.
Family members have rented a storage unit at U-Stor Self Storage since 1985. They currently rent a total of three storage units, police said.
Investigators have found a death certificate that confirms the woman found in the storage unit died in 1995, Castelli said. They also found a death certificate that confirms her daughter died recently.
The disposal of a body is heavily regulated by the government; police are investigating whether any laws were broken. Such an infraction would most likely be considered a misdemeanor, police said.
Authorities are transferring the body to A Life Tribute Funeral Care, which has locations in Largo and Gulfport.
The name of the woman found in the storage unit hasn't been released.