PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A man has been indicted by a Putnam County grand jury in the first-degree murder of a person who had been missing.
A missing adult report was generated by the Ocala Police Department on Jan. 25. Deputies said Christine Stern reported she had reason to believe her son, Thomas Lombardo, was missing. Stern said she last had contact with him Jan. 14 when she made arrangements for him to move to Melbourne on Jan. 18.
Stern told authorities her son had not returned any text messages since Jan. 17. Detectives in Marion County were able to determine that Lombardo was last seen within the jurisdiction of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office circulated bulletins to surrounding law enforcement agencies asking them to be on the lookout for Lombardo and naming Jerry Keene, 44, as a person of interest in Lombardo's disappearance because they had been together prior to the disappearance, deputies said. Keene's last known address was listed as Putnam County.
Putnam County deputies were dispatched March 3 to a suspicious person walking on the railroad tracks near Buffalo Bluff Road. Deputies said they found the suspicious person after tracking him for nearly 3 miles into a swamp. The person was identified by deputies as Keene.
Deputies discovered Keene was in possession of 85 pills that had not been prescribed to him, authorities said. Keene was placed under arrest. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Deputies also determined Keene was wanted on a Putnam County warrant for burglary and theft. Deputies said Keene was placed under arrest and booked into the Putnam County Jail, where he was held on a bond of $56,508.
On March 4, the human remains of a male individual were recovered from the Ocala National Forest off Forest Road 50 in Marion County, deputies said. The remains were taken to the 5th Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy, which was conducted March 5.
The cause and manner of death was ruled as a homicide. Through fingerprint examination, the body was positively identified as Thomas Lombardo's, deputies said.
The investigation revealed Keene and Lombardo were in the area of the Rodman Dam in Putnam County when they became involved in an argument. At some point during the argument, Keene killed Lombardo, deputies said.
Keene then took Lombardo's body to the location at which it was discovered, inside Marion County. Once the investigation revealed that Lombardo's death happened in Putnam County, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office Major Crime Unit led the investigation, which subsequently resulted in Lombardo's indictment, authorities said.
"The arrest and indictment of Jerry Keene for the senseless and ruthless murder of Mr. Lombardo was the result of excellent cooperation between the Putnam and Marion County sheriff's offices and the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office," Sheriff's Jeff Hardy said. "I hope this indictment brings some comfort to Mr. Lombardo's family by knowing the suspect had been brought one step closer to justice."
Keene remains incarcerated in the Putnam County Jail without bond, deputies said. No trial date has been set.