At our press time, Tampa Police Department (TPD) detectives were still trying to unravel the details of the “suspicious death” of Henry Hilliard Shell III, 79, a real estate developer and insurance company owner in Tampa.
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 s2006 Marquis was registered to Shell, who was reported missing one 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 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 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.
Shell, a widower since 2002, 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. At our press time, he was still in the Hillsborough County Jail, without bond, on a charge of grand theft auto along with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription (Xanax) and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheets was recently released from Florida State Prison on May 13 after serving one year and two months for battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to determine the cause of death for Shell; however, the findings from recent a toxicology report may shed some light on the case, which has been called “suspicious” in the upcoming weeks. One recent report said that Shell’s body had been 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.
Any person who saw the victim, his vehicle or the suspect is asked to call the TPD at 231-6130.