Body is care center patient who fled

Remains found under floorboards at a business are of a man who left an assisted-living facility.

By JACOB H. FRIES, Times Staff Writer
Published November 21, 2007

MADEIRA BEACH - William Joseph Oberle requested a transfer to a new assisted-living facility, but moments after arriving, he jumped in a cab and disappeared.

"He stayed less than five minutes," said Maria Adkinson, administrator of Gloria Manor in Seminole. "I was trying to get the taxi, find where they were going, and they just left."

That was April 13.

Notified the next day, Pinellas sheriff's detectives opened a missing persons investigation and discovered that Oberle's cab dropped him at John's Pass. They also developed a detailed description of Oberle, 53, and sent it out to other police agencies.

But nothing turned up until Saturday afternoon, when workers renovating a business cut through the floorboards and found a body.

On Tuesday, detectives were able to identify the remains as Oberle by his tattoos.

The body was too decomposed for investigators to immediately determine the cause of death.

It was unclear how the body ended up beneath the business, formerly Wicked Gifts, at 110 129th Ave. E.

Detectives said the crawl space where he was found is accessible from outside the building.

Oberle was said to have mental problems and had been living at a Boley Center facility, which provides services for the mentally ill. He asked to move to Gloria Manor, at 9000 86th Ave. N in Seminole, and was taken there on April 13.

That's when he left in a taxi and vanished - without the medication he needed, deputies said.

Miriam Williams, vice president of programs at Boley Center, said she couldn't talk about Oberle or his case. She did say that unless people pose a risk to themselves or others, service providers have no power to keep them at a facility. Oberle could have left Boley Center or Gloria Manor at any time.

"This is not an exact science," she said. "You can't always predict behavior. If, perhaps, they wanted to go to the beach, they have every right to do it. It becomes a fine line between choice and risk."

Jacob H. Fries can be reached at jfries@sptimes.com or 727 893-8872.