TAMPA – The skull found in June in the closet of a St. Petersburg-area home belonged to a 2003 Hillsborough County murder victim, Pinellas County deputies say.
It isn’t clear how Allen E. Garner’s skull wound up in the closet.
A suspect in Garner’s murder already has been convicted, and after Garner was killed, his remains – skull included – were sent to a medical examiner’s office, Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
“How his skull wound up in Pinellas, we have no clue,” Callaway said.
Garner, a transient, was born in October 1958. His bones were found in January 2003 in a wooded area near 58th Street and Columbus Drive.
Ronald Rhodes, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in Garner’s death and is in state prison, Callaway said.
Pinellas and Hillsborough deputies will work to determine how the skull wound up in a box in the closet of Steven Blackwell’s home, Callaway said.
Blackwell, 40, of 4550 39th St. N., told investigators he got the skull four or five years ago from his friend Chuck, Pinellas sheriff’s spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said. Blackwell didn’t provide a last name for his friend. He said Chuck claimed to have purchased the skull on the Internet.
Glenn Parker of St. Petersburg, a 34-year-old associate of Blackwell’s, went to the home June 14 to get some items for Blackwell, Barreda said.
“As he was looking for items, he came across this skull,” she said. “It’s my understanding that he left the residence pretty quickly after that.”
Parker contacted authorities, and the skull was turned over to medical examiners.
Blackwell has been behind bars since June 2. He was arrested on several drug charges, including armed possession of cocaine, possession and sale of methamphetamine, and possession and sale of marijuana.
A fire erupted in the vacant, one-story home June 27.
Based on some tips and their prior dealings with Blackwell, authorities thought the house might be booby-trapped or have dangerous chemicals inside. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad members entered the burned-out residence and found no explosive devices or booby traps, according to a media release at the time. Certain chemicals were found in the residence in varying amounts.
Blackwell’s 984-square-foot house sits in a modest neighborhood of mostly small frame homes in Lealman, an unincorporated enclave north of St. Petersburg.