HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — A used freezer sitting discarded in a scrap yard in Florida held a shocking secret and brought an end to the 6-year search for a missing woman.
"I thought it was a witch, or a mannequin," said Lilian Argueta, the owner of the scrap business where the remains were found. She had opened the freezer and made the gruesome discovery in March. "I thought, 'It can't be a person.' But there was a bad odor," she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
She said she screamed when she realized what she found.
The remains ended up being those of Heather Anne Lacey, 30, who had been missing for nearly 6 years, WBFS reported.
Argueta said Lacey’s body looked shrunken, with her skin dark like a mummy. She was on her side and her arms were above her head like she was pushing against the freezer door. Her legs were bent up to her body.
"I feel bad. She was a woman, and something bad happened to her," Argueta told the newspaper.
Lacey, who was in her 30s when she disappeared, was divorced and had two children.
Her family said that after the birth of one of her children, she started using painkillers and other illegal drugs after a Caesarean section went wrong, WBFS reported.
She had been arrested multiple times for a variety of charges including drug possession, prostitution, check forgery and identity theft, the Sun Sentinel reported.
At one point she was clean and had a job. But then she vanished, leaving her family thinking something had happened to her. She didn't reach out to contact her children or family during the holidays.
The discovery of Lacy’s remains actually started with the death of a man in Hollywood, Florida.
The body of Jonathan Escarzaga was found in February after neighbors complained of a bad smell coming from his apartment.
"That was a smell you never forget. When they crowbarred the door open, flies came out. I opened the front French doors of the building for air and ran back to my apartment," Escarzaga's neighbor Tom Burke, told WBFS.
After the investigation wrapped, the apartment owner hired a company to take all appliances out of the home. They were stored at a warehouse before being taken to Argueta's scrapyard, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Police haven’t said if there’s a connection between Escarzaga and Lacey. They also didn’t say how long Lacey was dead or how long she was in the freezer.
The Broward County Medical Examiner's office used fingerprints to identify Lacey's remains, but the cause of her death is pending her autopsy, the Sun Sentinel reported.
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