Two teens charged with stealing skull from Brooksville grave

Hernando deputies looked inside an old wooden casket and found the remains of a person wearing a man’s suit.

Later, investigators determined the skull had been nabbed and placed in a 5-gallon bucket of bleach.

The incident began 3:45 p.m. Saturday at Spring Hill Cemetery in Brooksville, when a deputy noticed an unoccupied vehicle in a remote area of the cemetery. The area is often used for drugs and illegal dumping, so the deputy started looking for the vehicle’s owner.

Investigators spotted a concrete tomb partially open at the back of the cemetery. Many graves in the cemetery have concrete tomb tops that are partially exposed. This particular grave had an 8-inch by 10-inch hole in the side.

In the tomb, a deputy saw a badly decayed casket with no top. The casket appeared to be old and in poor condition.

In that coffin, investigators found the man’s remains – minus his skull.

During the investigation, Joel Rivera, 19, of Brooksville, and Seth McCarty, 18, of Ridge Manor, came from the woods.

They told investigators “they learned that the cemetery was possibly haunted and they were looking for antique landmarks in the woods,” a Hernando County Sheriff’s Office news release states. “The deputy questioned the subjects about the disturbed grave and they first denied any knowledge. The subjects later told deputies they had been in the cemetery the night before and observed the partially broken tomb.

“They saw a skull inside the coffin but due to the small hole they could not remove the skull so they used a piece of concrete from the tomb to make a larger hole in order to get it out. They took the skull to a home of an associate and put it in a 5 gallon bucket of bleach. The skull was later recovered by deputies.”

The men were arrested, charged with desecration of the grave site and removing the skull.

They were taken to Hernando County Jail. Their bail was set at $5,000 each. McCarty remains in Jail. Rivera has since been released.

Deputies alerted the cemetery’s caretaker.

“Assistance was also requested to help in identifying the grave site for our records and for family notification,” the release states. “According to detectives there is no indication of satanic ritual or occult activity with this case. This case is still ongoing.”

Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691.

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