Shallow Grave: 12 years later, murder of Tampa mom still unsolved

8 On Your Side

On March 6, 2007, employees of a business on North 71st Street in Tampa made a disturbing discovery.

They found human remains sticking out of the dirt in the back of the parking lot. Someone had been buried in a shallow grave. 

Tampa police sent their homicide squad.

“There were probably five or six of us. I think the whole squad initially went out on it, but there were five or six of us that worked on it for several weeks,” said Detective Gary Sandel, who was among the first on the scene.

The parking lot is fenced in and behind a locked gate. Detectives initially started questioning employees of the business.

“I believe the company was pretty compliant right out of the shoot, they gave us an employee list. There were several detectives that worked that angle of it with interviewing basically every employee there,” Sandel said.

Tampa police soon identified the victim as 36-year-old Tracy McClelland of Tampa.

Lisa Whidden is Tracy’s sister. She says Tracy was a loving mother of three children who was also studying to complete a degree at USF to become a teacher.

But Whidden says Tracy also had a dark side.

Tracy’s brother committed suicide. Whidden says Tracy started taking prescription medication to deal with the pain. Soon, that progressed to street drugs.

“She told me it numbed her feelings, it numbed her emotions, so she was masking her pain,” said Whidden.

Sandel had just started as a homicide detective when Tracy was murdered. More than a decade later, he’s been assigned to work the unsolved murder case for the Tampa Police Department.

Watch Jeff Patterson’s full Unsolved: Shallow Grave report Friday at 6 p.m. on News Channel 8.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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