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Kettle robbery suspect found dead

Police say that the body found in the Hillsborough River is the man believed to have swiped Salvation Army kettles to support his drug habit.

Published December 6, 2005

Lee J. George

TAMPA - Police Tuesday confirmed that the body found in submerged car Monday afternoon is Lee J. George, who was suspected of robbing several Salvation Army bellringers in Pinellas County.

The cause of death was drowning, according to the Hillsborough Medical Examiner's office.

Detectives in Pinellas said they believe the spree of Salvation Army robberies was fueled by George's drug habit.

George, 41, made his first attempts at swiping the kettles Nov. 28 and his most recent on Saturday.

A green Buick Century which matched the description of the car used in the robberies was found in a creek near the Hillsborough River. A Tampa wastewater worker spotted the vehicle in a creek in the 2100 block of Riverside Drive just north of downtown Tampa at about 1:15 p.m. Monday, said Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin. Police divers found the body, without identification, fully clothed in the back seat.

Police divers also found a bottle of liquor and two pill bottles near the car, Durkin said. Small amounts of marijuana were inside the bottles.

[Last modified December 6, 2005, 14:47:31]

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