The charred remains found near a burning car west of Glen St. Mary just before midday on February 9 have been identified as those of a Wisconsin man who had been visiting his mother in St. Augustine.
There was no apparent reason that Bruce Burnett, 21, of Appleton, WS was in a wooded area just north of the intersection of Smokey Rd. and Reid Stafford Rd. that morning, but police speculate he turned down a tram road near the power lines and parked in what he believed was a remote area.
Investigator Mike Hauge of the sheriff’s department said Mr. Burnett likely set the 1996 Nissan ablaze with gasoline, though a final determination awaits investigations by the state fire marshal’s office and the medical examiner in Gainesville.
LeAnn Miller, who lives just south of the scene on Gin Henry Lane, told Deputy Tony Norman she heard a loud explosion about 11:30, followed by the sound of a car horn in the distance.
She then saw black smoke rising from the woods behind her residence and walked toward the area to find the vehicle engulfed in flames and what appeared to be a white male crawling away from it.
Deputy Norman said Mr. Burnett’s body was on the ground 3-4 feet from the driver’s side door.
Investigator Hauge said he was identified Monday via fingerprints from a 2010 drug possession arrest in his home state.
He apparently drove to Florida to visit his mother, arriving on February 6. She told the investigator he feared he was ill and talked about ending his life. He left her residence Sunday morning, saying he was going to buy a surf board.