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Detectives ID body discovered in wooded area near Fort White

Columbia County deputies: Case being investigated as homicide

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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – The body of a man was found Monday in a wooded area near the Columbia-Suwannee county line, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office said.

On Tuesday, detectives identified the body as that of 29-year-old Steven McGee. They said his last known address was in Branford, but he also had connections to Columbia, Suwannee and Gilchrist counties.

"Cases of this nature are rare in this area and cause fear in our community," Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said. “We are working around the clock to get answers and to bring the person or persons responsible to justice. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim as we work to provide them closure."

Sgt. Murray Smith, spokesman for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, told News4Jax the body showed signs of trauma, so the case will be investigated as a homicide. 

Deputies responded just before noon Monday to the area off Old Spanish Road near Fort White, where a couple walking their dog found the body and called the Suwannee County Sheriff's Office.

"They called Suwannee County, believing it was in Suwanee County. They respond. They secured the area. They realized it was in our county and then they called us," Murray said.

Tim Atkinson said he and his wife were the ones who made the discovery during their daily walk.

"I saw what looked to be a new tarp lying off to the side of the road," Atkinson said. "As I got closer, I saw that it had bungees on it and something was wrapped up inside of it."

He said he and his wife suspected it was an animal carcass wrapped in the tarp, so his wife unwrapped it just to be sure. 

"She pulled the bottom of the tarp up and when she did that, we could see there was human remains in there," Atkinson said.

Deputies said the man's body will be taken to the medical examiner's office in Jacksonville for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. 

The investigation continues. In the meantime, people up and down the stretch of county line are talking about the highly unusual discovery that has left Atkinson feeling both sad and uneasy. 

"We were pretty shocked when we realized what we had," he said. "It's kind of an eerie feeling or surreal, almost, feeling to know that somebody lost their life and they're lying right there at our feet.”

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