Severed Leg Belonged to Missing Florida Woman

PHOTO: Kelly Moriarty and Doris Wade Carter
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A severed leg that washed ashore in St. Petersburg, Fla., last December belonged to Kelly Moriarty, who went missing and has since been pronounced dead, Bradenton Police confirmed today.

Moriarty, 38, of Bradenton, Fla., was last seen with her girlfriend, Doris Wade Carter, 62, on Dec. 17, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Carter has also been reported missing.

The two women were last seen in Carter's home in Plant City by Carter's live-in daughter, Stacey Muralt, Hillsborough County police said. The women, who had been romantically involved for the past two years, reportedly left the morning of Dec. 17 in Moriarty's car.

It was not uncommon for both women to be away for extended periods, Muralt told Bradenton Police. Muralt's husband, Anthony, told police the women left on Christmas vacation last year and did not return until the first week of February. He confirmed to police Moriarty was staying at the residence the week before her disappearance.

Stacey Muralt described the women's relationship to Bradenton Police as "passionate and volatile." She told ABC News' affiliate WFTS-TV that the women had a tumultuous relationship. Carter's husband died of a heart attack in 2005, WFTS-TV reported. The women began dating two years ago.

"They fought a lot," she said.

Moriarty's car was found Dec. 20 in Parrish by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. There was no evidence of foul play, Hillsborough County police said.

Moriarty's family discovered she was missing on Jan. 27 when an apartment manger where Moriarty lived contacted her brother, Brenden Moriarty, who was listed as the emergency contact on her lease. Moriarty had not paid her rent for December or January and management was unable to contact her. The landlord entered her apartment and found no signs of disturbance, according to Hillsborough County police.

A Christmas tree was still up with unopened presents underneath. Milk in the fridge was dated Dec. 23 and a newspaper lay on the sofa dated Dec. 8. That day, Brendan Moriarty reported her missing to Bradenton Police. The Moriarty family told police they had not seen or spoken to Ms. Moriarty since Thanksgiving.

The severed leg was discovered Dec. 27 by Canadian tourists on vacation in the area. Using DNA samples provided by both women's families, examiners were able to link the leg to Moriarty, Hillsborough Police said. Investigation of the initial crime scene of the leg is still under investigation.

"When we saw she was found, we closed our missing person case," Capt. Warren Merriman of Bradenton Police told ABC News. "Now it's up to Bay Area agencies to follow up on the cause of death."

Moriarty's family released a statement, which reads: "The family was notified on Friday by Bradenton detectives of Kelly's passing. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our daughter/sister/aunt. As you can imagine, the full extent of our loss has yet to be realized, we are in shock, and are grieving Kelly's passing. We loved and miss her tremendously. It is our hope that the joint effort of the Bradenton police, Manatee County Sheriff, St. Petersburg police, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can quickly find whoever did this to her and bring them to justice and bring some closure to the family. We would ask everyone to please respect the privacy of the family and allow us to mourn Kelly's loss privately."

Ms. Muralt told ABC News' affiliate WFTS-TV that she is losing hope her mother will ever return home alive.

"I don't know if my mom has been taken advantage of or if someone is exploiting her in some way," she said. "Her mental and physical faculties aren't there. Knowing that Kelly's been harmed changes everything."

The investigation is still underway and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is looking for anyone with information about the case to call 813-247-8200.

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