Six days passed before anyone called 911 to report that KellyAnn Dipietro died.
By then, the 29-year-old’s body had decomposed nearly beyond recognition as it lay among trash at a Boynton Beach park.
Dipietro overdosed on cocaine and sedatives Friday, Dec. 15, with two people she met during her latest stint in heroin-addiction treatment.
Caileigh Manifold Stoops, 22, and Stoops’ boyfriend tried to revive her, Stoops told police.
They couldn’t. So they went to sleep.
When they woke up Saturday, they wrapped Dipietro’s body in a bed sheet, put her in the trunk of a car and pushed her out in the overgrown brush at Barton Memorial Park, Stoops said.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday passed. On Thursday, Dec. 21, a passerby saw Dipietro’s feet and called 911.
Her friends never did — and legally, they didn’t have to.
Last legislative session, bipartisan efforts to move bills that would mandate 911 calls and expand immunity from drug-related charges for people who call 911 when someone overdoses stalled before they could become law.
The moral implications of not calling for help seem obvious, said West Palm Beach attorney Scott Skier. “But when does the law dictate morality? It’s a fine line,” he said.
“It’s a balancing act of not wanting the public to take too many steps that could really exacerbate the situation,” he added.
Florida, like most states, doesn’t have a law requiring people to help someone who’s dying, unless they either caused the deadly ailment or have a special relationship, like a parent-child or spousal relationship, with the person in distress.
In 2012, legislators passed a “911 Good Samaritan Law” that provides “limited immunity” against drug-possession charges for people who call 911 for someone who’s overdosing.
However, no law obliges them to call.
They can, as in Dipietro’s case, go to sleep and hope for the best.
“It’s unfathomable, it’s mind-blowing ... that they could treat somebody, you know, that was a friend (like this),” said Dipietro’s fiancé, Mark Bavosa. “It’s a barbaric act, in my opinion, what these two people did.”
Boynton Beach police argued that Stoops and her boyfriend should face manslaughter charges because they didn’t call 911, though they knew Dipietro overdosed. Their “failure to provide Dipietro with the proper medical assistance ultimately contributed to Dipietro’s death,” Detective Jeff Gleicher wrote in the probable-cause affidavit filed April 4.
Instead, the State Attorney’s Office filed a charge of “unlawful disturbance of a body” against Stoops last month. The first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Stoops’ attorney, Douglas Rudman, filed paperwork Thursday morning indicating Stoops pleaded not guilty to the charge and demanded a jury trial. The case is set to go before a judge for a disposition July 6.
As of Thursday, her boyfriend does not face charges in Dipietro’s death, so The Palm Beach Post is not naming him.
A spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office would not say whether the office plans to charge him. The spokesman also would not comment on why the state didn’t pursue the manslaughter charge, as the office does not comment on open cases.
Rudman declined to comment further on the case.
'Everything they could without calling the cops'
Bavosa assumed the worst when Dipietro, his partner of eight years, wouldn’t answer his calls.
He dropped her off the morning of Dec. 15 at the Greenacres IHOP where she worked as a waitress. They planned to eat there when her shift ended, then go Christmas shopping.
Bavosa was eager to buy her a bracelet she not-so-subtly hinted at wanting.
She already left when he returned that afternoon. Her coworkers figured she sneaked out early with him.
Bavosa reached out to Dipietro. She told him she was with Stoops and Stoops’ boyfriend “getting high.”
He tried to reach her again. Her phone was off. Three days later, he filed a missing-person report with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities checked nearly every hospital in the county. She wasn’t at any of them.
Bavosa went to the last rehab center where Dipietro stayed and offered money for any information about where she was.
Word about the reward spread to Stoops. She said she would tell Bavosa what she knew if he gave her $50. Bavosa met Stoops and her father Dec. 19 at a gas station.
Stoops said Dipietro was “tricking herself out” — prostituting herself — at the corner of North Seacrest and Boynton Beach boulevards in Boynton Beach. She never mentioned that Dipietro had died.
Bavosa said he made Stoops report that information to police.
Stoops pressed him for the $50 as they left the police department, Bavosa said, but her father wouldn’t let him give her the money.
Stoops and her boyfriend likely were the last to see Dipietro alive, Bavosa told police.
Later that afternoon, police met with Stoops at a drug-rehabilitation center in Fort Lauderdale. Her boyfriend was there as well, but he refused to speak with police without a lawyer.
Stoops told detectives she got high with Dipietro on Dec. 15 and briefly overdosed at her father’s house in the Boynton Heights neighborhood. She found Dipietro unconscious when she woke up.
She said she and her boyfriend put ice in Dipietro’s pants, poured water over her head and did chest compressions so forcefully they thought they broke a rib — “everything they could without calling the cops,” a police report states.
Stoops’ boyfriend called a friend for advice. The friend told him to call 911 immediately.
Instead, they went to bed and hoped Dipietro would sleep it off.
Dipietro overdosed — a fatal accident, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled.
How to recognize an overdose
If someone is making unfamiliar sounds while “sleeping” it is worth trying to wake him or her up. What sounds like snoring may actually be someone overdosing. Learn more here.
Stoops and her boyfriend found Dipietro’s body when they woke up the afternoon of Dec. 16. They were afraid they would be blamed for her death, Stoops said, so they dumped her body in the bushes on the southwest side of Barton Memorial Park, about a mile north of where she overdosed.
The thin green space, which runs parallel to Interstate 95, was the unofficial burial site for the city’s African-American community from 1900 until 1959. Twentysome grave markers stand on the north end of the park. Dozens more bodies likely lie unmarked.
A man who usually walks through the cemetery area of the park took a turn south Dec. 21, five days after Dipietro’s body was left there. A pile of litter in the brush caught his eye, he told detectives.
“I walk over to the trash and I see flies and I go ‘Woah, wait a minute,’ ” the man told police. He saw feet sticking out of the garbage. “Then I backed up and called you guys.”
Bavosa heard the news on a local television station that a woman’s body was found in a park.
“How many people are really found dead in a park? I just assumed it was her,” he said.
He identified her body on Dec. 21 by the flower and “Mark” tattoos on her lower back.
“I don’t understand their mindset at the time when they decided to do all of this to her,” Bavosa said.
The 911 Good Sam Law
In 2012, state lawmakers passed a 911 Good Samaritan Law hoping to curb frequent fears surrounding calling for help when someone overdoses. It provides “limited immunity” from drug possession charges so people won’t waste time cleaning up any unused drugs before dialing 911.
“People were taking time, precious time, to clean and get rid of drugs,” said Delray Beach police spokeswoman Dani Moschella. Officers would arrive at overdose scenes “and they looked clean as any restaurant,” she said.
'Good Samaritan Law'
If someones calls 911 to report an overdose, Florida Statute 893.21 offers the caller “limited immunity” from drug possession charges. The law is intended to encourage people to call for help as soon as possible and not waste time cleaning up any illegal substances.
The law, though applied at officers’ discretion, generally means small amounts of drugs found at an overdose scene won't be used as evidence of a crime, provided a good Samaritan called for help.
With the Delray Beach Drug Task Force, Moschella visited recovery homes and spoke with people there about the law. Many were skeptical of police, so Moschella made a point to stress that officers wanted to save their lives, not arrest them.
In the last legislative session, state lawmakers proposed similar bills (SB 970, HB 1261) in both chambers that would have expanded the parameters of that law to protect those seeking medical help not only from prosecution but also arrest.
A version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, passed nearly unanimously through three committees. It died on the chamber’s calendar.
The House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. David Silvers, D-West Palm Beach, died without a hearing at its first committee stop.
The bills would have included immunity in alcohol-related overdoses as well as instances in which people call for help when they “have good faith belief” they or someone else is overdosing.
Among the offenses that callers would be immune from arrest or prosecution:
- Drug sales or trafficking
- Alcohol possession by an underage person
- Murder by means of giving someone illegal substances
Silvers said he plans to file the bill again in the next session.
The bill stops short of mandating people to call for help when someone is in distress.
The lack of such a legal requirement in Florida made international headlines last year when a group of Central Florida teenagers laughed at and recorded video of a man as he drowned in a retention pond in Cocoa.
They never tried to rescue Jamel Dunn, 31, nor did they call for help. Instead, they posted the video of him dying on social media, police said. Authorities found Dunn’s body five days later.
Cocoa police asked the State Attorney’s Office for Brevard County to file a failure to report a death charge against the teens, the same charge Stoops faces in Dipietro’s death. The office is still reviewing the case against the teens, a spokesman said Wednesday.
In response to Dunn’s drowning, Florida Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, filed a bill (SB 516) that would make it illegal not to provide assistance when someone is in distress. It died in its first committee stop.
To Bavosa, the lack of such a law is a “chink in the armor.”
“These kids have not done 30 seconds of jail time for a body. That’s very strange to me,” Bavosa said about Stoops and her boyfriend not being arrested in Dipietro’s death.
He hopes the moral outrage people have expressed after hearing Dipietro’s story will translate into legislation mandating 911 calls.
“ ‘The KellyAnn law’ would be a great name,” Bavosa said. “And hopefully (it’ll) save someone’s life in the future.”