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Work on pool unearths truck, bone, mystery

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


TAMPA -- The Gravitt family's latest home improvement project, putting in a backyard swimming pool, ran into a really big obstacle this week: a 3,000-pound Ford Ranger somebody had buried years ago.

The discovery, along with a large bone, caused a sensation in the Forest Hills neighborhood in north Tampa where they have lived since 1989.

Mike Gravitt's son discovered the truck Monday while digging the hole for the pool.

On the seat of the truck, they found a large bone.

Gravitt, 42, told a client of his business, Pro Hardwood Installations, about the bone on Tuesday.

The client called police, who showed up on Wednesday. By Thursday, detectives, television trucks and reporters had arrived.

Police told the Gravitts to stop digging and took the bone to the medical examiner's office.

"I think it's cool," Gravitt said. "It could get linked to Jimmy Hoffa."

The house's history prompted gruesome speculation.

It had been rented in the 1980s by a biker named Bryan "Spanky" Williams. He and another biker, Thomas Michael Wicklace, went to prison for the 1985 murder of 16-year-old Billy Rosebud.

John Cancel, 26, grew up down the street. He remembers the time the bikers torched a Volkswagen and how they hoisted car engines from tree limbs.

When the Gravitts moved in, the back yard was littered with motorcycle parts, trash and mounds of broken glass from beer bottles.

Neighborhood lore has it that a washer, dryer and snowmobile are buried somewhere.

"These people didn't go to the dump," Cancel said. "They just dug a hole."

Thursday afternoon, Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said the big bone found in the yard was not from a human. He couldn't say what kind of animal it might have come from.

That solved one problem.

Because the yard isn't considered a crime scene, the Gravitts are free to proceed with their swimming pool.

They plan to call a professional pool company after digging the hole. But first they have to unearth that Ford Ranger.

Gravitt said he's hoping to lure his son's football teammates from Hillsborough High School over to the house this weekend with hot dogs and Gatorade.

Bring shovels, he'll tell them.

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