At our press time, Tampa Police Department (TPD) detectives were still trying to unravel the details of what has been called the “suspicious death” of Henry Hilliard Shell, III, 79, a Tampa-based insurance company owner and real estate developer.
On November 15, Kirby Mack, a convicted drug dealer, borrowed a 2006 gold Grand Marquis from James Monroe Sheets II, 35, of 4433 Chase Dr. in Wesley Chapel.
Police say this same 2006 Marquis was registered to Shell, who was reported missing a day earlier by his co-workers, who were worried when their boss didn’t show up for work that Monday morning at Shell Henry Realty & Insurance in downtown Tampa. Mack told police he drove the car south until he smelled a “a foul odor coming from the trunk of the vehicle.”
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Mack stopped the car, popped the trunk and found a body inside. He then called 911 and drove to the District 3 TPD office at 3808 N. 22nd St. The human remains were then taken to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office, where it was confirmed, through dental records, that the person inside the trunk was indeed Henry Shell.
Shell was last seen alive on November 12 at 6 p.m. at his insurance office. He was with Sheets at that time, according to a TPD report.
A widower since 2002, Shell reportedly kept to himself. His wife, Joann Hixon Shell, was the daughter of former Tampa mayor, Curtis Hixon, who has a downtown Tampa city park named after him.
“(Shell) would often reach out and hire homeless people,” TPD spokesperson Janelle McGregor says.
Detectives are still working to determine the relationship between the victim and Sheets, a TPD report said. They believe the pair traveled in the victim’s car that night sometime between 6:20 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. to the Wesley Chapel area.
Detectives identified Sheets as a suspect in Shell’s death on the same day Mack drove the car to the police station. Sheets was then arrested at the Shaw Motel at 1509 E. Hillsborough Ave.
A video surveillance tape from the motel shows Sheets opening the trunk of the Marquis about 8 inches and crouching down to feel the inside while he looked around the parking lot, says a recently released search warrant.
At our press time, Sheets was still in the Hillsborough County Jail, without bond, on a charge of grand theft auto, possession of a controlled substance (Xanax) without a prescription and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheets was previously released from Florida State Prison on May 13 after serving 14 months for battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has run an autopsy on Shell’s body and has said that his death was suspicious and that his body was likely in the trunk for several days.
Public records show that Sheets has previously been arrested for crimes in Hillsborough County, some of which have been violent offenses, 19 times since 1997. Mack’s record is no better, with at least 20 arrests, mostly for cocaine possession, since 1996. Police have named Mack a witness in the death and Sheets as suspect, although no further charges had been filed at our press time. The investigation is continuing, however.
Any person who saw the victim, his vehicle or the suspect is asked to call TPD at 231-6130.