On April 2, 2014, The University of North Texas returned DNA test results to PCSO that confirms the skeletal remains found on September 17, 2013, in Lakeland are a positive match for 35-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rhodes of 712 East Garden Street in Lakeland.
Around 8:55 a.m. on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, a witness was looking for scrap metal on North Wabash Avenue in Lakeland, between Memorial Blvd and Crutchfield Road, when he found a human skull and some bones. The witness called PCSO to report the remains.
The scene was located in the woods east of North Wabash Avenue, slightly south of Crutchfield Road. The bones were taken to the Medical Examiner's Office for examination, and at that time it appeared the bones were those of an adult black female.
The following is a timeline of events in this investigation:
· March 27, 2012 – Mary’s mother is admitted to hospital; Mary visits her on or around this date.
· April 29, 2012 – Mary’s sister, Larfay Copeland, goes to the Lakeland Police Dept to report Mary missing; She is told to have Mary’s parents make a report.
· May 7, 2012 – Laurette Rhodes, Mary’s mom, and James Pearson report Mary missing to LPD.
· Sept. 17, 2013 – Skeletal remains are found in a wooded area off of North Wabash Ave in Lakeland; PCSO releases info to media.
· Sept. 19, 2013 – An osteological exam determines the remains are those of a black adult female, between 30-40 years old.
· Sept. 23, 2013 – A section of bone is sent to Univ of North Texas for DNA analysis.
· Sept. 24, 2013 – Due to media coverage of skeletal remains, Larfay Copeland contacts PCSO in reference to her missing sister, Mary Rhodes.
· Jan. 22, 2014 – LPD enters Mary Rhodes as a missing person into FCIC/NCIC.
· April 2, 2014 – The Univ of North Texas reports a positive DNA match in CODIS between the skeletal remains and Mary Rhodes.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a suspicious death investigation at this time. If anyone has information about Mary’s disappearance or her death, they are urged to contact Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477). You will be eligible for a CASH REWARD. Anonymity is Guaranteed!