On Tuesday, a man called police after finding a woman’s body in the woods near Interstate 4 in Polk City, Fla. She lay face down, with a belt pulled tight around her neck, says a report filed by the detectives who responded to the scene. A medical examiner ruled she had been manually strangled, and that she had been in the woods for 18 to 24 hours. She had a few piercings and a small tattoo on her hand, but a larger piece stood out. The grimly ironic tattoo, written in the cursive font common to body art took up much of her inner forearm. It read, “Pray for Death.” A friend of the dead woman would later tell the Orlando Sentinel that she was planning to get the words “Love for Life” inscribed on her other arm.
Police released a photo of the tattoo in hopes of identifying the woman, and it did not take long before her mother recognized the image and came forward. The victim, Laura Michelle Hunt, 20, lived with her parents and left home for the last time on Saturday. Before leaving, she told her mother she was going to a Lakeland bar to play pool. There, she ran into her ex-boyfriend, Patrick Wilkey, 21, who according to Hunt’s mother, had threatened to hurt her if they broke up. The two stayed out all night, and at dawn had sex in Hunt’s SUV, Wilkey allegedly told police after his arrest. Mid-coitus, Wilkey became angry, and, police say, choked Hunt for about eight minutes before stuffing her body into the trunk of her car. To make sure she didn’t wake up, Wilkey allegedly looped his belt around her neck. With his dead ex-girlfriend in the back, according to the report, he drove her car around for two days, using her credit card to buy gas. During those two days, he visited his mother, and a friend who reportedly told police that Wilkey confessed to him.
After finally dumping her decomposing body, Wilkey, who has a history of burglary and theft arrests, left Hunt’s car at Life Church in Auburndale. Detectives found it there Wednesday morning, and arrested Wilkey the same day. He is charged with first-degree murder and theft.
A similar story unfolded in Middletown, Conn., last month, when hikers came upon a woman’s body in the woods near a scenic trail. Police released a picture of her tattoo, a heart with the name ‘Melissa’ written across it. As in the case above, the victim’s mother saw the tattoo and began to worry. Unlike Laura Hunt’s mother, Marge Eichler, perhaps to preserve hope, did not call police. Soon enough, the police came to her. They had identified Eichler’s daughter, 31-year-old Diana Eichler, by her fingerprints. A medical examiner concluded that Eichler died of trauma to the head and ruled her death a homicide. Her killer has not been found. Police released a photo of a vehicle believed to be linked to her death. Anyone with information is urged to call the Middletown Police Department at (860) 344-3200.