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Oh, About That Severed Head ...

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Congratulations to Jennifer Babson for taking your run-of-the-mill "fishermen find severed human head" story and turning into a minor masterpiece. I know, I know, people find human heads in South Florida all the time -- bobbing in canals, washing up on the beach, jamming up their garbage disposals -- but we rarely get the backstory about the discovery.

That's what Babson gives us in today's Herald. Her story gets going when the heroes, three Broward fishermen down in Islamorada, become suspicious. Then comes the inevitable "that's no lobster trap buoy!" moment.

"We all looked at each other and said, 'Hmmmm,'" Babson quoted one of the fisherman.

Babson is just setting us up for the money shot.

By the second pass, a wave of alarm had swept over the fishing party.

One of the men said, ''Did that look like what I thought it was?'' Swinney recalled. 'I said, 'Yeah.' ''

As they moved in, Swinney extended his hand and turned the object over in the water.

''There was a face looking right at us,'' Marks said.

''It had a full set of teeth and about eight vertebrae below the neckline,'' Swinney said.

The rest of the body was nowhere in sight. The former Florida Highway Patrol auxiliary member wasted no time.

''Marc just grabbed the rib and pulled it right in the back of the boat,'' Marks said.

Who does that? Who grabs a decaying severed head/upper torso/what-not and pulls it up onto a boat? Is he fucking crazy?

Then Babson writes, "They sought comfort the way fishermen often do."

No, it wasn't an impromptu session of hot sweaty man love. They just had a few beers with the head they'd just rescued. And, of course, they took a video clip of the head with their cell phone cameras. Babson didn't report that part, but Channel 4, in a report by Ted Scouten ran the video clip over and over again, though it's difficult to make anything out here.

Finally, Monroe County sheriff's deputies came to pick up the head. Could have been the end of it, but Babson doesn't let us down: "The head still has some flesh and part of an ear in it. The eyes are gone. Four ribs, a jaw and some vertebrae remain. An examination by Monroe's medical examiner on Monday revealed the remains -- likely from a man -- have shark bite marks but don't seem to show any evidence of inflicted trauma before death."

That's reporting, unlike the brief they ran in the Sentinel. Wait a second, that was no brief. That was nothing. The Sentinel missed the story altogether. But they did have a big nothing-new Holocaust story on the front page. The headline on Lisa Huriash's story: "Holocaust's dark secrets still torment."

Really? Wow, never heard that before. Good thing it dominated the front page.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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