Detectives say Patrick Wilkey strangled 20-year-old Laura Michelle Hunt and left her body in an open field in Polk City.
Polk County Sheriff’s Homicide detectives were able to use dental records to identify Hunt, who lived at 1308 Whitehurst Road in Plant City, and whose body was found in a wooded area near Walker Lane in Polk City on Tuesday.
It’s been estimated that Hunt’s body had been there for 18 to 24 hours before being found by a local resident, who had noticed buzzards flying around the wooded area near his home. When he walked over there to see why, he discovered Hunt’s body lying face down and called 9-1-1.
Hunt was found wearing a black hooded shirt and no bottoms. She had a tattoo that read “Pray For Death” on her lower right forearm.
An autopsy was conducted on Wednesday, and the medical examiner ruled the cause of death was manual strangulation, and this became a homicide case. There was bruising around the victim’s neck.
Later that day, homicide detectives arrested 21-year-old Patrick Eugene Wilkey of 3044 Lantana Circle in Auburndale and charged him with one count of first degree murder.
“Wilkey confessed to choking Hunt to death on July 9, 2012, and then driving around in her car with her body in the trunk for two days before dumping her body in Polk City,” noted Carrie Eleazor, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “He told detectives he drove to visit his mother in Cape Coral, and he also used Hunt’s credit card to fill her car up with gas, while her body was in the trunk.”
Earlier in the day, detectives had contacted Hunt’s mother, who told them her daughter had last been seen on Saturday when she went to Wally’s, a club in Lakeland, to play pool with friends.
The mother said Laura had planned to break off her relationship with Wilkey, who she described as being jealous and violent. The mother said Wilkey had indicated he would hurt Laura if she tried to end their relationship.
According to the arrest report, Wilkey told detectives that he strangled Hunt for eight minutes before he was able to kill her. He also told them that his thumbs were still hurting from how hard he had been squeezing.
Wilkey was booked into the Polk County Jail on Wednesday. He has a lengthy criminal record that includes previous arrests in Polk County in December 2008 for burglary, grand larceny with a firearm, and dealing in stolen property; an arrest by the Miami Beach Police Department in June 2009 for vehicle theft; and an arrest by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in April 2010 for burglary and criminal mischief.
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