St. Pete clerk who mistook suicide for April Fool's prank fired

St. Pete clerk who mistook suicide for April Fool's prank fired

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) -

The desk worker who mistook a dead woman for an April Fool's Day joke and threw the 96 year-old's body into a dumpster has been fired.

Ronald Benjamin confirmed that the Peterborough Apartment complex fired him Wednesday morning.

Benjamin, 61, did not want to say much more to News Channel 8 because he is so distraught about what happened Wednesday. Friends have been at his home, consoling him, throughout the day.

“It’s one of those crazy circumstances that probably wouldn’t replicate itself in a hundred years,” said Mike Puetz, St. Petersburg Police spokesperson.

The bizarre incident started Wednesday morning around 4:30 a.m., when Benjamin, a desk clerk at the Peterborough Apartments, located at 440 4th Ave N in St. Petersburg, went out to the parking lot to take a smoke break.

The body of a 96-year-old woman who had jumped from her 16th story apartment was on the ground, but Benjamin didn’t process it that way, according to police.

“From a distance, he thought this was part of an April Fool’s prank,” Puetz said. “He didn’t go and investigate. He just thought somebody was trying to prank him and he didn’t even want to go check it out because he figured somebody was going to jump out of the bushes and scare him.”

Altogether four people would see the body, and were confused by what it was.

Two hours later, around 6:30 a.m., another employee of the apartments came into work, noticed the body, and told Benjamin, who told her someone was just playing a prank, according to police.

Benjamin then asked two people delivering newspapers to help.

“He flags them down and actually asks for their assistance in helping move the mannequin to the dumpster,” Puetz said.

It wasn’t until 8 a.m., when a maintenance man came into work and noticed blood in the parking lot, when everyone realized what was really there.

“He goes and looks in the dumpster and sees this is definitely a human being,” Puetz said.

The investigation led police to the 96-year-old woman’s 16th story apartment. They say she pulled a stool up to the window ledge and stepped out. She left a note.

Puetz said no one will face charges in the incident since it was a mistake.

“As the body lays there, you have rigor mortis set in, so the body actually becomes stiff,” Puetz said. “We’re talking about a very old woman that probably weighs not very much. So the totality of those issues might have convinced this man he wasn’t dealing with a human subject.”

Outside the doorway of the apartment tower, friends and neighbors place flowers at a small memorial.

Nancy Sanborn was a friend of the woman and said, just like any loss, this will take time to process. With grief, some seniors are showing forgiveness.

“I don’t think you can judge people by mistakes,” Sanborn said. “I wasn’t there and I’m sure he feels the loss and the tragedy as much as the rest of us.”

Sanborn said the woman fled England during World War II, attended college and got her masters degree, then went on to live a very successful life in the corporate world.

News Channel 8 is not releasing her name, until police can track down her family members and notify them of her death.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.





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