Florida marks third deadly alligator attack in less than a week By Amy C. Rippel & Stephen Hudak Orlando Sentinel May 15, 2006, 11:13 AM EDT A woman snorkeling in a Marion County spring and a homeless woman trespassing in a Tampa Bay-area backyard were found dead Sunday in alligator attacks, bringing to three the number of fatal strikes in less than a week. The third occurred in Sunrise last week. The bloody week in Florida's waterways marks a stark departure for a state that had seen just 17 confirmed deadly encounters with alligators in 58 years. The homeless woman found dead and dismembered Sunday morning had been killed as many as three days earlier, officials said. A homeowner found the body near Oldsmar in Pinellas County. The woman apparently was alone, her purse and some drugs found nearby, and she had suffered alligator bites. Officials say the attack was a factor in her death but won't know an official cause for as long as four weeks. A Tennessee woman killed Sunday afternoon was swimming with friends in Juniper Run in Ocala National Forest. Two of the friends tried to pry her body from the jaws of the alligator, gouging its eyes in a frantic effort to free her. That incident came just five days after a Davie woman out for a jog went missing near a canal in nearby Sunrise. Her dismembered body was found the next day, and the alligator that attacked her was captured and killed Saturday, parts of the jogger's body still in its digestive tract. Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said there have been an increasing number of alligator attacks for several reasons, including warmer weather and humans encroaching on alligator territory. "The bottom line is, yes, the trend is increasing," said commission spokeswoman Joy Hill. About 7:30 a.m. Sunday, the body of Judy Cooper, of Dunedin, was found -- her right arm sheared off, officials said -- in a canal in East Lake Woodlands, just north of Tampa Bay. Cooper, 43, suffered "upper body trauma" from alligator bites, including severe wounds to both shoulders, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. Cooper's sister, Dannette Goodrich, 55, said the family had not heard from Cooper for about three months, since she slipped in her drug treatment and started abusing crack cocaine again. Sheriff's investigators said Cooper had been in the water for about three days. The Medical Examiner's Office found no obvious trauma that would have been a result of a homicide but did find alligator bites. The medical examiner said the alligator "did play some part in the victim's death." The official cause of death will not be available for several weeks while blood tests are conducted. Gary Goodrich, Cooper's brother-in-law, said officials told them her purse was found near the water. "They don't know how she died. They know there was drugs involved. They found drugs at the scene," Goodrich said. "I guess she had rolled in the water. The alligator got her and took . . . [one of] her arms and part of her back." Kelly Ferderber, 45, first saw the body Friday but thought it was garbage floating in the canal behind her home in East Lake Woodlands. Sunday morning, her daughter, Ashley, 18, and son, Evan, 16, went to check out the floating mass. They used a boat pole to pull it closer. Then they saw a brown ponytail, a white ear, blue jeans with the pockets sticking out and a dark sneaker. "I found out it was real, and I freaked out," Ashley Ferderber said. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Gary Morse said a trap containing a dead chicken has been set in the canal, but they might not catch the gator responsible for the attack because it might have moved on to a different area. Dannette Goodrich said Cooper had two children, an 11-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son. Cooper's daughter was hoping she would hear from her mother Sunday, Dannette Goodrich said. "I thought, it's a mistake; it has to be a mistake," she said. "My poor 11-year-old niece. This is Mother's Day." While the discovery of Cooper's body shocked officials who had just been investigating last week's death of Yovy Suarez Jimenez, 28, in Broward County, they were even more stunned by another attack Sunday afternoon that killed the Tennessee woman swimming in a spring in Ocala National Forest. Annmarie Campbell, 23, died before friends could pry her from the jaws of an alligator in a spring-fed stream that feeds Lake George, near their rented cabin seven miles south of Salt Springs in Marion County. Campbell, of Paris, Tenn., and three friends had rented a cabin on Juniper Run, a waterway that feeds Lake George. The four were snorkeling in about 3 feet of water when Campbell and friend Jackie Barrett of Silver Springs were separated from Barrett's husband, Mark, and friend James Edward of Satellite Beach. Jackie Barrett couldn't find Campbell in the water so she went back to the cabin. She then yelled to the two men to look for Campbell. When the men found her in the water in the alligator's jaws, they gouged its eyes and pounded on its snout with their hands, said wildlife commission spokeswoman Kat Kelley. One of the people in the party ran about a mile from the cabin to State Road 19 where they could get cell-phone reception and called 911, Kelley said. "I understand they were gouging at eyes and trying to pry open the jaws," Kelley said. "These people are pretty much in shock. The guys had cuts or scrapes on their hands." The men were told they should get checked at a hospital because of the potential for infection but had not done so as of late Sunday, officials said. They stayed at the cabin Sunday night and were not available for comment. Angela Stefancik, 31, of Bunnell was at nearby Juniper Wayside Park on Sunday with friend Dawn Beavers, 30, of Palm Coast and four children. They swim and cook outdoors at the park every weekend -- a place they always felt safe because they could swim without fear of drowning or snakes. "I don't think we're going to be coming here any more real soon," Stefancik said. "And it used to be you didn't worry about alligators." Added Beavers: "But not anymore."