The call came into the station early that day; too early to be anything but bad news. A jogger had stumbled across a body in a rundown section of town and the coroner says there's no question that it was a homicide. That's where I come in.
The dawn broke cool and crisp in Sarasota the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago. The coroner was waiting as I rolled up and walked me over to the corpse.
"Sorry I'm late, Doc," I said. "I had to drop off a couple of $400 checks to some people, then 9-1-1 gave me the wrong address and I've been driving around for an hour looking for you."
"Not surprised," Doc replied. "We were sent to three different locations before we gave up and called Tony Cormier at the Herald-Tribune to find out where to go."
"This is the worst I've ever seen, boys," he mumbled. "And I hope I never see another like it." Off to the side, a veteran patrol officer openly wept.
Old Doc was right. This was the worst I had ever seen, too.
Partially wrapped in a plastic bag laying next to some garbage cans were the mutilated remains of a female. It appeared as though some sort of animal had gotten to it during the night. At least, I hoped it was an animal.
She was young. It was hard to tell, though, since all that was left of her was a skeleton, some gristle and various bits and pieces of skin. Her head, arms and legs had been removed from her torso and most of her flesh stripped from her bones, as were her once-voluptous breasts. There was evidence of knife wounds all over the victim, even bite marks on what was left of her legs and thighs. We surmised she had been killed at a different location because her entrails had been ripped out and could not be located in the crime scene area.
No I.D., no distinctive markings, no clues to go on, except for a scrap of plastic wrapper bearing the cryptic word 'Butterball'..........
The coroner used DNA to make a positive identification. Her name was Gloria. Gloria Giblet Gobbler, to be exact. And so it fell to me to piece the rest of the story together and fill in the blanks of how and why she was killed. I had lots of questions: Satanic ritual? Charles Manson wannabes? Voodoo cult? Mob hit? Some wild sex party that got out of hand? My God, could it even be.... cannibals? Here in Sarasota? I knew too well the dark, seamy underbelly of this town; nothing would be off the table for this case.
"One more thing," Doc said with resignation. "Her furcula had been ripped out and snapped in two." I wish he never would have told me that. Now I'd have to Google "furcula."
I interviewed some of her acquaintances. Turns out she was last seen in a Publix grocery store off Clark Rd. just a few days earlier. Surveillance video showed her being picked up by a middle-aged couple and being put in the back seat of a late model SUV. She seemed to go willingly, although she may have been frozen in fear when they grabbed her.
Gloria had had a checkered past, but friends say she was getting her life turned around and wanted to attend cooking school, which, now seems tragically ironic. She had been raised on a farm out in the midwest. As is so often the case, she fell in with the wrong crowd. Started using drugs, mostly artificial hormones, steroids, growth enhancers. Probably trying to grow bigger boobs. Why do chicks think that a bigger chest is the answer to all their problems? Probably because we men tell them it is.......
She ended up in Sarasota, shaking her tailfeathers at a seedy topless bar downtown. Made a pin-up calendar for a local Lexus dealership, where she became known as 'The Wilde Turkey.' It was all gravy for Gloria for a while, but then began the inexorable slide into the hellish world of porn. Not your average run-of-the-mill-boy-meets-girl, girl-jumps-in-the-sack-with-boy, girl-convinces-her-two-girlfriends-to-join-them, girls-catch-boy-with-an-older-woman, girls-forgive-him and the-five-of-them-live-happily-ever-after porn though.
No, this was worse. Much worse than that.
Gloria started dabbling in hardcore poultry porn under the name 'Tawni Turkey.' I found a promo shot. Definitely NSFW.
From there, nobody knows what happened to Gloria. Poultry porn is an industry that gobbles you up and spits you out. You might go in a whole bird, but you come out in nuggets.
We never did locate the people in that SUV. We don't know if they were the killers or if they just might have had Gloria over for dinner that Thanksgiving.
The clues went cold, the case dried up. Her parents have since disappeared, the topless bar downtown where she worked was razed and is soon to be either a world-class parking garage, a state-of-the-art mini-Fenway Park for Boston Red Sox spring training or just another vacant lot on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Sarasota, FL, USA. Nobody in the poultry porn business remembers her. Too many new chicks have come along for the poultry pervs to drool over since Gloria plied her trade for some ignorant mother-clucking producer.
Gloria--or what was left of her--ended up in landfill somewhere, I suppose.
The case still haunts me. And every year around this time, I take out that faded old photo of her dressed in her prom gown and wonder what might have been. Would she have met a handsome Tom, gotten married, bought a nice coop, hatched a couple eggs, raised a family of poults and lived out the rest of her days in peace on that midwestern farm?
Or is that just my pie in the sky dream.
With whipped cream.
And not that Cool Whip crap, either.
Gloria G. Gobbler at the 2004 annual Turkey Trot Dance at Frank Perdue High School.