Authorities say they are investigating the death of a Bradenton woman as a homicide following a report of a body on fire.
Deputies responded to a report of a body on fire in a wooded area off the 4600 block of 18th Street East, Bradenton, around 1:15 a.m. Monday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials determined 50-year-old Veronica Polite, of Bradenton, was dead when EMS and deputies arrived, according to the sheriff’s office. An autopsy will determine her official cause of death. Until then, authorities are investigating her death as a homicide.
Dave Bristow, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the call came from a man who was going to visit someone in a homeless camp near where the body was found. The man noticed what he thought was a body on fire and called authorities. Bristow said Polite was not living in the homeless camp.
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“We’re surmising it happened sometime after midnight,” Bristow said.
It is unclear whether Polite was dead before her body was burned, Bristow said, but that will be determined with the autopsy.
“At this time it appears to just be a coincidence there was a homeless camp there and someone decided to put this body there,” Bristow said.
Authorities are trying to find out where she was last seen and whom she was with, and they had not identified any suspects as of Monday afternoon.
Bristow said if anyone was in the area Sunday night between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Monday and noticed anything unusual, they can reach out to investigators. It does not appear to be a random event, he added.
“Maybe a car driving slowly, looking for somewhere maybe to go and do this sort of thing, please contact us,” Bristow said.
Polite’s husband of 31 years, Willie, described her as a “nice, sweet woman. I tell ya, she really was a nice, sweet woman.”
“My nephew said he heard a voice about 11:30, 12 o’clock out there at night talking out there on the patio,” Willie Polite said. “He said he dozed off. He woke up and come outside, and they were gone.”
Willie Polite said his wife was legally blind.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Polite had been in contact with law enforcement several times before her death, both as a victim and facing charges, several of which were later dropped. She was convicted of possession of cocaine in 1995, according to court records. Bristow confirmed she had been a victim of a domestic incident in the past as well.