MARTIN COUNTY — Sheriff’s detectives possibly have identified the man whose body was found in a wooded area of Hobe Sound on Friday, but it could take anywhere from a couple days to several weeks until they know for sure.
“We believe that we do know who he is,” said Sheriff William Snyder, “but we can’t be absolutely certain because of the fact of the decomposition.”
Officials got a call from somebody who possibly knew the man based on a tattoo of what appeared to be a flaming skull on his left knee, Snyder said. The department shared a photo of the tattoo with news and social media, asking the public for help.
Detectives are “98 percent sure” about the man’s identity, Snyder said. If it’s who they think he is, the man isn’t a Martin County resident but instead from South Florida. Snyder won’t yet release which county.
“It appears to us that he was killed somewhere else and dumped here,” Snyder said. “We’re working with the agency where our possible victim is from.”
Officials are waiting for results from DNA testing and dental records, Snyder said. An autopsy on the body was performed Monday, but he said the medical examiner needs an anthropological pathologist “to make a call on cause of death.”
However, Snyder said they have determined the man could have been dead for one to three weeks.
“They do have some promising evidence and indications that have put them on to believing they know what happened,” Snyder said, “but until they have verification from that anthropological pathologist, they’re not going public.”
Snyder said detectives are treating the case as a homicide, even without final autopsy results, based on what was found Friday morning. A dispatcher and a retired sheriff’s deputy were on their way to fish a lake in the woods off Southeast Bridge Road when they discovered the decomposing body.
Officials scoured the crime scene — set up south of the roadway between 200 and 300 feet into the woods just west of Suzanne Drive — with metal detectors, Snyder said.
A major reason why detectives believe it’s a homicide is because the man’s body was discovered in the woods where there’s no homeless camp where he could’ve been living, Snyder said.
“There was some evidence at the scene that was very suspicious,” Snyder said, “but we just can’t release that.”