‘I thought it was a witch’: Scrap metal business owner finds dead body of missing woman in freezer

The owner of a scrap metal business in Florida got the shock of her life when she opened a recently delivered freezer and discovered a dead body inside.

The Sun Sentinel reports that Lilian Argueta discovered the body in a freezer at the scrap business she owns with her husband Pedro Rodriguez in Margate.

“It thought it was a witch, or a mannequin,” Argueta told the newspaper. “I thought, ‘It can’t be a person.’ But there was a bad odor.”

Authorities reportedly identified the body as Heather Anne Lacey, who disappeared in 2013 at the age of 29. According to the report, Lacey’s family had long suspected that something terrible had happened to her. A bright, divorced mother of two, Lacey had slipped into drug abuse after enduring a difficult Caesarean section birth, and reportedly sometimes worked as a prostitute.

“She was a very smart girl and had a lot going for her and unfortunately, her downfall was getting into drugs, doing drugs and being addicted,” Lacey’s mother Patti Palumbo said in an interview with the Sun Sentinel. “It put her in a cycle that led us here.”

Another apparent homicide led to the discovery of Lacey’s body. According to the report, the freezer came from a home in Hollywood, where firefighters responded to a call about a foul odor in February. There, they found the body of 36-year-old Jonathan Escarzaga, who had vanished the week before.

Escarzaga’s cause of death remains unknown, as do any ties he might have had to Lacey. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s report obtained by the newspaper shows that an autopsy performed on Escarzaga, a freelance airplane mechanic, did not find any evidence of recent drug use or injury.

Following the discovery of the body, the building manager in Hollywood reportedly arranged to have the appliances in the unit removed, and it eventually made its way to Argueta’s business — but not until a month after Escarzaga’s body was found. During that time, it does not appear that anyone opened the freezer, although Argueta and her husband told the newspaper that it wasn’t locked when they received it.

Inside, Lacey’s body had shrunken and darkened; Argueta and her co-worker Stephen Calcano, who also witnessed the body, were reportedly surprised to learn that Lacey was a fair-skinned blonde.

Adding to the horror of the discovery, the woman was reportedly found with her hands up against the freezer door, perhaps as if she were trying to push it open.

For now, a mystery surrounds Lacey’s untimely death, as authorities have revealed very few details about the ongoing investigation.

“Every once in a while I think, ‘Why would this happen, and how would it happen?’” Calcano told the newspaper.