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Body in bay might be missing woman

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2000


Three fishermen found a woman's body off the Manatee County coast Easter morning, and a Gulfport man is holding out hope that the body is not his wife's.

But the dead woman is white. She has reddish-brown hair. And she was wearing the same type of casual clothes his wife was wearing when last seen Monday morning.

"I'm still holding out hope until somebody definitely does verify that it is her," said Gulfport resident Art Davis, whose wife of 12 years, Dalana Davis, has been missing since Monday. "The thing is, it's not every day that a Caucasian female with reddish-brown hair is found."

An investigator with the medical examiner's office in Sarasota said an autopsy will be performed today, and the office will attempt to identify the body.

The Florida Highway Patrol found Mrs. Davis' car at the top of the Sunshine Skyway on Monday, about 30 minutes after she told her daughter she was going out for cigarettes. The abandoned car's engine was still running.

Art Davis said his wife had displayed suicidal tendencies in the past, but she was terrified of the Skyway. He would tease her while driving over the bridge, urging her to look at the sailboats on the water beneath them.

Mrs. Davis would stare straight forward or close her eyes to avoid looking.

"She was always deathly afraid of that bridge," Davis said Sunday afternoon, shortly after learning about the discovery of the body. He was informed by a victim's advocate assigned to him by the state attorney's office.

Art Davis himself went out on the water Saturday, looking for some sign of his wife without success. Dalana Davis, 40, has two children -- Aaron, 16, who attends Boca Ciega High School, and Amber, 14, who attends Tyrone Middle School. The family lives at 5221 Jersey Ave. S in Gulfport.

The body discovered by the fishermen was found at 10:15 a.m. Sunday in Manatee County, less than 2 miles from the Skyway, near Port Manatee.

"We haven't made any positive ID," said David Winterhalter, an investigator with the medical examiner's office.

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