Lakeland, Florida: Police Identify Body Found In Alligator’s Mouth As 72-Year-Old Homeless Man

The Lakeland Police Department has identified the man whose body was found inside of a 9-foot-long alligator’s mouth near Lake Hunter. Police were notified last Tuesday that an alligator had a human body in its mouth. Police responded to Lake Hunter in Lakeland, Florida, and discovered the alligator with the body. When police approached the gator, it dropped the body and left the area. Police were able to retrieve the body and identify the victim via fingerprints.

WFLA reports that police in Lakeland, Florida, have finally identified the body of a man found in an alligator’s mouth in Lake Hunter. The police were able to use fingerprints to determine that the deceased man was 72-year-old Richard Zachary Taylor. The man had reportedly lived in Lakeland for the last 10 years, and originally hailed from South Carolina. The police say that Taylor was homeless at the time of his death, and did not have a permanent address.

“Taylor has been in the Lakeland area for approximately 10 years and is from South Carolina. The next-of-kin has been notified.”

While the police have been able to identify Richard Zachary Taylor as the deceased man, the cause-of-death is currently still unknown. In a Facebook post made by the Lakeland Police Department, it is noted that the detectives are waiting on test results from the Medical Examiner’s Officer before they release any further information.

“The manner and cause of death is still undetermined and detectives are waiting on additional test results and the toxicology report form the Medical Examiner’s Office. Detectives are also working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the investigation. No other details are being released at this time.”

Though police do not know if the man was killed by the alligator or if the gator simply was eating his already deceased body, a trapper was called and the gator was killed. It was reported that human remains were found inside of the alligator that matched Taylor’s DNA.

“The alligator was later caught. Human remains inside the alligator were identified to also be Taylor’s during an autopsy.”

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When Taylor’s body was retrieved by police, it was reportedly severely decomposed and had likely been in the water for multiple days. The body was so decomposed that initially police could not say with certainty the gender or age of the victim. The individual who spotted the body and called police was Joe Diaz. The man says that he initially thought the body was a tire floating in the water but quickly realized it was something being carried by a gator and appeared to be human remains.

“At first I thought it was a tire or something just from the looks of it. I noticed there was a gator on it because he kind of took it up and rolled it. You can tell [the body] had been there awhile because they had smelled something that was not right.”

This is not the first body found in an alligator’s mouth in Florida within a week. Just last week, police were called to a south Florida canal after a body was discovered in the water being chewed on by two alligators. The body in that case was so far gone that police say they cannot determine race, gender, or any distinguishing factors about the identity of the victim at this time.

“What happened to them? How did they end up here? Could it be a homicide, could it be a suicide, could it be natural, a fisherman? We don’t know. That’s what the next step is to figure that out.”

[Image via Shutterstock]