Jessica De Leon
The Bradenton Herald
The body of a Bradenton woman was found in a ditch in Palmetto late Thursday night, six days after she was last seen, Sheriff Rick Wells announced Friday morning.
Stephanie Lynn Shenefield, 38, didn’t show up to meet friends and go to a concert last Friday. Then on Sunday, she also failed to show up for work at Papa Joes Sports Bar in Sarasota.
She had not been seen or heard of since June 2, when her mother reported her missing to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, prompting a missing person investigation on Monday. Friends began posting fliers that offered a reward around town.
“They knew that something was wrong. This was totally out of character for Stephanie,” Wells said at a press conference Friday. “She had not contacted anyone. No one had seen her. Friends were behind the scene trying to call other friends just trying to make sure she was OK.”
But Shenefield was already dead when family, friends and the sheriff’s office began looking for her.
With the help of Shenefield’s roommate, lead detective Nate Boggs was able to access her laptop and discovered she had taken a Uber in the early morning hours of June 3 to the home of William Redden in the 200 block 30th Street East of Palmetto.
Redden initially cooperated with detectives, telling them that Shenefield had come to his home around 1 a.m. to hang out, spent the night, then left the next morning. He said he didn’t know where she went.
He also allowed detectives to search his home, which they discovered had video surveillance inside and outside.
Although Redden claimed the system did not record, he agreed to let detectives take the DVR. When they began reviewing the footage, detectives confirmed that she had been there.
Footage showed her arriving at 1:20 a.m., hanging out with Redden, and later being carried by him out of camera view.
“Sometime during the night, Stephanie dies inside that residence. We do not know the cause of death,” Wells said. “But what we do is that William Redden does not nothing about it. He doesn’t call 911. He doesn’t call authorities. He doesn’t call anyone.”
At 12:20 p.m., video footage showed Redden dragging her body — wrapped in a sheet — through the house, loading her in the backseat of his car, then driving off, Wells said.
With this information, detectives went back to Redden’s home, but he refused to speak with them.
Detectives then began tracking her electronic devices in an attempt to locate her body.
As they were doing so, they received a call from two Palmetto residents who were out walking their dogs at 6:50 p.m. Thursday and spotted a body in a drainage ditch surrounded by empty grassy fields and gravel roads between Street Court East and 29th Street East.
“Stephanie was badly decomposed,” Wells said. “It took us a while to identify her and notified the family. We are deeply sorry for their loss.”
Her body had been found about a mile away from Redden’s home.
Redden was arrested Thursday and charged with abuse of a corpse, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of an altered firearm because the serial number had been filed off.
Redden in court
Redden made his first appearance before Circuit Judge Lon Arend on Friday afternoon. Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell detailed the allegations.
An autopsy performed Friday morning found no immediate cause of death, O’Donnell said. Cause of death remains pending a toxicology report.
Redden was also being charged with tampering with evidence, she added.
He is in custody at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $108,000. He is scheduled to appear before a judge on Saturday morning on the tampering charge.
Redden is a convicted drug dealer whose criminal convictions include possession of cocaine, sale of cocaine, aggravated battery, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Wells did not go into detail about whether there were drugs or drug paraphernalia in Redden’s home when they searched it. Detectives are unsure how he knew the victim.
In a video Redden posted in February to what appear to be his Facebook and TikTok accounts, he tells a joke about getting a call from a friend who says police had just found his girlfriend’s body. In the joke, he asks the friend how they found it, and the friend says, “I don’t know ’cause where they found it is not where I put it,” and Redden laughs.
Bradenton Herald intern reporter Jiselle Lee contributed to this report.
This story was originally published June 10, 2022 10:30 AM.
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