ST. PETERSBURG | Residents of a St. Petersburg high-rise apartment complex are rallying in support of a front desk clerk who was fired after mistaking the body of a woman who’d committed suicide for a mannequin.
Ronald Benjamin, 61, spotted the body of the 96-year-old victim in the parking lot early on the morning of April 2. But he told authorities he thought it was a mannequin, placed there as an April Fool’s Day prank.
Benjamin later enlisted a newspaper carrier and her teenage son to toss the mannequin in a trash bin.
A maintenance worker spotted the body a short time later and authorities were notified.
St. Petersburg police didn’t press charges, but Carteret Management Corp., which manages the 153-unit building, fired Benjamin.
Turns out Nancy Yates had left a suicide note in her 16th floor apartment.
Anne Desrosier, 83, told the Tampa Bay Times she wants Benjamin to be rehired.
“It was tragic that Nancy took her life,” said Desrosier, who lives down the hall from Yates’ apartment. “But I can’t find in my mind and heart any possible reason why he should be punished because he made an honest mistake.”
She has circulated a petition, which already has about 25 signatures, asking the management company to rehire Benjamin. She considers his dismissal to be the result of “corporate thinking.” She’s also gotten 25 signatures from people who attend her church.
Desrosier said Benjamin worked the front desk and was polite to tenants.
The day after he was fired, Benjamin told the Times that Yates’ face didn’t look real and that he’d been unable to sleep because of the incident.
Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.