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Body from Kmart parking lot identified

Police discovered the body of Steven D. Chandler, 49, on Sunday afternoon in a Kmart parking lot near Florida Avenue.

Published July 10, 2006

TAMPA — A body found swathed in blankets and stuffed in the backseat of a tan, faded Oldsmobile has been identified as a Dade City man with a history of drug problems.

Police discovered the body of Steven D. Chandler, 49, on Sunday afternoon in a Kmart parking lot near Florida Avenue. He was identified Monday using fingerprints, police say.

The cause of his death is not yet known. Investigators are waiting for toxicology reports, which could take several weeks, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The incident is being investigated as an “unexplained death,” she said.

It’s not clear how long Chandler’s body had been in the car or how long ago he died, she said.

His body was discovered after a customer at a Shell gas station at N Florida and E Waters avenues saw flies and smelled an odor coming from the car.

Witnesses told police the car had been there for several days, possibly since July 3. McElroy said the car belonged to Chandler.

Records show Chandler shared a Dade City address with his parents, Carol and Willis Chandler. McElroy said police had been in touch with the couple, who are vacationing in North Carolina.

Chandler’s wife is Lequita J. Chandler, McElroy said.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Lequita Chandler is being held at the Suncoast Work Release Center, serving a 5-year sentence on a charge of “sudden snatch robbery,” records show.

Steven Chandler has been arrested several times in the last few years, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In December 2001, he was arrested by Dade City police on charges of distributing cocaine, a felony, records show. It was unclear how the case was resolved.

Shortly after, in January 2002, Dade City police accused Chandler of possessing a controlled substance without a prescription and cocaine possession, records show.

According to archives from the Tampa Tribune, police accused Chandler of stealing controlled medicine from an Eckerd drug store on U.S. 301 by passing himself off as a customer waiting to pick up a prescription.

He left the store with 28 Cephalexin and 40 Oxycodone pills, a police report said.

He pleaded guilty in July 2002 and was sentenced to a year of probation. In 2003, Kenneth City police accused him of violating his probation.

He was arrested again in April 2004, accused of stealing gasoline, records show. He pleaded no contest and was fined.

Researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or

[Last modified July 10, 2006, 18:23:15]

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