Central Tampa News
Finger Found In Oxtail From Meat Store, Family Says
By Josh Poltilove | Tribune StaffTAMPA - A Tampa family at home eating oxtail for dinner made a surprising discovery, their lawyer said - part of a human finger.
Published: August 29, 2008
Published: August 29, 2008
Connie Edwards noticed gristle on one of the pieces and peeled it off.
"She took a fork and peeled it off to see what it was," said her lawyer, Thomas Parnell. "It looked like the end of a finger. The first joint down to the whole nail and everything. ... They quit eating, yes."
Parnell said he thinks it was part of a middle finger.
Edwards, 48, and Tommy Smith, 43, were disgusted by the June 28 incident and did not wish to speak with a reporter, Parnell said.
Tampa police investigated the matter, and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office said it was a real fingertip.
The family said it purchased the oxtail from the House of Meats, 502 E. Sligh Ave., according to Parnell.
Oterino Lazaro, the store's owner, said he doesn't believe the family's story. He said only three people at the store touch meat, and nobody there lost a fingertip.
Edwards, in fact, asked.
"She came in and said, 'Is anybody missing any fingers here?'" Lazaro recalled.
Nobody was, he said.
The meat was provided to the store from a supplier, Lazaro said, but he was skeptical that anyone there would lose a finger in the process of providing oxtail, either.
"I don't know where it came from," he said. "But what they're saying is impossible. It's impossible. I swear to God, it's impossible."
Lazaro said the Edwards family's complaint will probably mean a lawsuit.
He said the family never produced a receipt to prove it purchased oxtail from his store.
Parnell provided the Tribune with a copy of a receipt for $108.35 in items from the House of Meats. Oxtail is not one of them.
"If she had bought oxtail, it would have said oxtail on the receipt," Lazaro said Thursday.
But the most expensive item on the bill, at $59.99, is called "Family Plan 5-260500." A look at the price list posted in the store shows 16 "Family Plan" options, each featuring a variety of meats and only two costing $59.99.
One of these options, No. 5, includes oxtail. The other, No. 6, does not.
After the fingertip was discovered, it was taken to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.
Associate Medical Examiner Leszek Chrostowski said initially the body part looked like a piece of rubber. It was well cooked, he said.
"They just brought the finger and it was on a fork. It was really gross," Chrostowski said. "Initially, all of us thought it was artificial, that it was a practical joke - a Halloween-type thing."
An X-ray didn't reveal bones inside, but deeper investigation revealed tiny pieces of bone, Chrostowski said.
The office's opinion of the case, reported Aug. 22: "Human finger, distal portion."
Chrostowski said there is no way to identify the person who lost the fingertip because the DNA evidence was cooked away.
Because there were no leads to identify the finger, the Tampa police investigation into the finger has been closed, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
News Channel 8 reporter Krista Klaus contributed to this report. Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691 or email@example.com.