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A Suicide in Walmart’s Parking Lot; Victim, 28, Was Connected to Tuesday’s Cop Escapee

| December 8, 2011

Michael Saunders was found dead in an apparent suicide on the east side of Walmart's parking lot in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Michael D. Saunders, 28, a resident of Royal Tern Lane in Palm Coast, was found dead in his Honda Accord Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 7) in an apparent suicide. The day before, Saunders had been with Michael Testa when the 21-year-old Bunnell man was arrested by Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies near Marvin’s Garden on State Road 100, and escaped.

A deputy had pulled over Saunders on a traffic stop. Testa was a passenger in Saunders’s Honda, along with two other young men. Testa was arrested on charges of dealing in stolen property. He escaped from the deputy’s cruiser after filling out a statement. Saunders was a witness in the arrest. He told deputies that he had bought an antique gun from Testa days earlier. The gun had been reported stolen (and was recovered). Saunders, who’d been booked into the Flagler County jail a few times since last year on minor charges, was not charged on Dec. 6.

Mike Saunders

A Walmart employee who got to work at 11 a.m. Wednesday noticed Saunders in his Honda, toward the east side of the Walmart parking lot. Saunders looked like he was sleeping. It’s not unusual for people to pull over at Walmart parking lots across the country and sleep or rest. When the employee came out to his car at 3 p.m. for a break, he noticed Saunders still in the same position. According to a sheriff’s report, the employee knocked on the car window. Saunders didn’t respond. The employee noticed fluid coming from Saunders’s nose, and called 911.

Responding deputies established Saunders’s identity. Rescue Engine 21 of the Palm Coast Fire Department also responded and forced entry into the Honda, since it was locked. Paramedics confirmed that Saunders was dead, at which point the scene was secured and a detective was called.

Elizabeth Conrad, a narcotics detective with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, reported that Saunders “was in a seated position with his head slumped down with his chin on his chest.” He had “no obvious signs of trauma to the body. His hands were free of wounds and positioned in a relaxed manner across his midsection.” He was dressed in shorts and a collared short, his feet resting on flip flops.

The detective also noticed a small amount of burnt charcoal on the floorboard on the passenger side. “The charcoal ashes were lying on a piece of tin foil and there appeared to be approximately 5-6 small briquettes,” Conrad reported. “It should be noted, when burning briquettes they release carbon monoxide and when burning them within a closed area, this could lead to death by carbon monoxide poisoning.” The car’s windows were all closed. “There were no other significant findings within the vehicle indicating a struggle or foul play,” the detective continued. The keys were in the ignition, but in the off position.

The Walmart store manager referred a reporter’s inquiry to the company’s home office in Arkansas. “It’s an unfortunate incident and we’re working closely with police, providing any information to them,” Kayla Whaling, a Walmart spokeswoman, said. She was not able to answer additional questions–such as whether business had been interrupted at all, though it appeared from the location of the vehicle in the parking lot that the incident and the investigation were at a remove from traffic in and out of the store.

On Saunders’s Facebook page, he had listed a line attributed to Frank Sinatra as his favorite–“I’d rather be don of the mafia than president of the United States”–and a Bob Marley line under “basic information about Mike”: “I know I’m not perfect, and don’t live to be.. but before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.”

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33 Responses for “A Suicide in Walmart’s Parking Lot; Victim, 28, Was Connected to Tuesday’s Cop Escapee”

  1. Diana Becker LeBrun via Facebook says:

    So sad….

  2. Barb says:

    My heartfelt condolences to this young man’s loved ones. How very sad.

  3. Donna Bunn Lightsey via Facebook says:

    Hmmmmm…..waiting for the rest of the story….

  4. L says:

    why did he do it? what was the reason weird.

  5. charlotte knoblaugh says:

    so so sad. my prays go out to his family & friends. it doesn’t make any sence, to young to be that unhappy. again my Prays go out to all who loves him

  6. Mariah says:

    My Uncle mikey had a wonderful life , let his body rest in peace . I hope he enjoys his trip in heaven .
    i know i am only 13 but he ment the world to me ! You will be the shadow that walks behind me to protect me . My aunt jennifer ( mikeys sister) will be always followed by his presences along with judy ( mikeys mother ) i hope for the sake of this family , he will be watching over over us forever and always i love you mikey

  7. Rachel says:

    So sad…. he dated a friend of mine along time ago

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Very sad indeed, such a young man! My deepest respect and sympathy to all his family members

  9. Tamara Kyriakoulis says:

    Mike,I will always Love you,I know you weren’t happy and you’ve tried to commit suicide before,I stopped you once,I only wish I could have been there this time to stop you,may you RIP and find your true happiness I Love You my Sweet Little Brother and I will hold you close to my heart always and forever.

  10. elaygee says:

    I hope he has family that will see he gets taken care of properly and with dignity. Whatever sadness he had was not evident enough for anyone to help prevent this.

  11. Brad West via Facebook says:


  12. Barb says:

    Tamara and Mariah….my heart aches for you. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  13. Nikki says:

    OMG this is so sad! I hate the fact that people hurt so badly they feel the only way out is death…my cousin died in 2009; suicide by cop and I just wish we could have talked him out of it. I hope Mike is at peace now and my condolences to his family.

  14. suewho1010 says:

    Such a handsome young man , I’m so sorry this happened .My prays go out to the family and friends of this child of god. Walk with the angels

  15. Aynne McAvoy says:

    I think this speaks very poorly of Flaglerlonline. There is a fine line between news reporting and dragging a person’s name through the mud along with the family, which has to be suffering horribly, especially right before Christmas.

    I suggest that you review your policy of publishing the names…and all the gory details no less….of suicides.

    Frankly this turns my stomach and smacks of yellow journalism.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      The suicide took place in a public place and was connected to an ongoing police investigation. Not reporting it, including the details–without which rumors about such things as method and location would have taken the place of accuracy–would be irresponsible. We’ll always provide as much detail as possible, without presuming to sanitize the information. No one is forcing you to read the story or click on FlaglerLive.

  16. ALANA says:


  17. palmcoaster says:

    Sad news no matter wich way is reported makes no difference …is still very sad. So lets not punish the messenger, as he reported it fine.

  18. ooopsssss says:

    why the guilt now, why didn’t the news journal cover this, could this all be part of a cover-up????????????

    • esident says:

      Flaglerlive did nothing wrong reporting this. If this had not been reported there would be 20 different stories saying what and how and why it happen. We can all try and understand but if you look back this year alone at all the suicides that have been reported. This is a sad time that someone so young feels the only answer they have is to end their life. Nothing and noone is worth ending your life. I pray for his family hear at the Holidays they are missing a love one. He knows his friends and he worked with officers maybe he was threatened noone knows my thoughts and prayers to the family

  19. Anonymous says:

    MICHEAL SAUNDERS was a wonderful person. NONE of this makes any sence. I NEVER knew Mike to b a depressed or unhappy person. He was always the person to go to & vent to & he ALWAYS was there for me & cheered me u NO MATER WUT! i love him like a brother & wish i could bring him back. *taken from us too soon, but u will always b in my heart & part of the family no matter wut , i wish it didnt end like this but please just watch over Berto and make sure he is safe. i love u both so much & hope ur in a better place.* RIP MIKE<3

  20. Ellaina says:

    His niece goes to my school… Shes devastaded.</3

  21. Jenn says:

    So sad :( My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

  22. Lefty says:

    I’d like to take a moment to express my sympathies to Mike’s family and friends.
    I hope that Mike found peace.
    And may those he left behind be able to find solace.

  23. Heather says:

    My thoughts & prayers go out to his family and friends. I had the opportunity to meet him and he was truly a nice, fun young man. He showed me & my friends around town. I had such a fun, memorable time. He will be watching over you Mariah & Tammy. XOXO Heather

  24. Elana Lee says:

    First my sincere condolences to this young man’s family. Flaglerlive did nothing wrong or irresponsible by reporting this. Suicide can happen anywhere, in anyone’s family, and ‘not talking about it’ does not make it disappear. Volusia/Flagler has the highest suicide rate in the state of Florida and has for many years. (State of Florida, DOH Website Stats) The most common suicides are white males in their 20’s to 50’s. Local schools and colleges have received suicide prevention grants over the years, but I don’t think the mental health providers in the Volusia/Flagler area are asking the right questions; i.e., “Why?” Why do we have the highest suicide rate in the state? A garden variety of risk factors can be cited, but (imo) it boils down to lack of accessible mental health services in the Volusia/Flagler area. There are some “services” for those with insurance or money, but exactly what is available, and how easy are the services to access for those in Flagler County who do not have an insurance company to bill, or cash to pay up front for mental health services?

  25. Barb says:

    Not sure where your stats come from Alana Lee, but you are way off. Actually Miami-Dade has the highest rate of suicide according to the stats I read and Flagler and Volusia were waaaaayyyyyy down on the list in comparison. Following Miami-Dade was Broward, then Pinellas, Palm Beach, Duval and Brevard…all higher even when you add Flagler and Volusia together. And I do believe there is help out there for those who seek it, and I also know of many people who did everything they could to prevent suicide, i.e. counselors, doctors and medicines..and nothing helped enough to prevent them from committing suicide. And you might have said that it’s your opinion that Flaglerlive did nothing wrong. Some people are put off when suicides are published with details and names. In the state I am from, the newspapers never did that. I won’t go as far as to say I think it was wrong, but I understand why some people see it as wrong.

  26. Barb says:

    After reading over my above comments, I do want to add that stats show suicide is on the rise alarmingly in our area, especially Volusia County. I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of this. I believe one of the biggest factors is that Flagler County and Volusia have the highest rates of unemployment in the state. It’s hard to reach people who don’t reach out. I wish people would realize there is help out there for them and not to be embarrassed to reach out for it.

  27. Barb says:

    And to Mike’s family and friends…Hospice (both in Flagler and Volusia County) has some wonderful programs for those affected by suicide of a loved one. When you are ready, please contact them. I know several people who have been affected by suicides of ones they loved…especially parents and wives who feel they should have know what was going to happen. I’ve met parents who knew how much their child was suffering and did everything they could to help and just couldn’t. For every traumatic death…not just suicide…the parent feels guilt that they didn’t do more to prevent it. There is only so much that can be done. We’d like to keep our children (even adult children) safe 24/7 but it’s just not possible. Please…when you are ready…contact hospice and let people help you.

  28. Anonymous says:

    ellania do you go to my school bc im like his only niece

  29. Mariah Mikes Niecd says:

    Mike ,
    This past months have been hard on all of us ……. just last night i felt you with me ….. and telling me everything will be okay . Mike you need to come home . this home with me and all the family but your new home is what is right i will never let you go emotionally , but physically……. i have to .. <3

  30. mikes neice mariah says:

    I miss you so much Mike… words can’t even explain. You were my favorite uncle, and always will be. Some times I look up at the stars and wonder if your looking down on me. And when I’m at the beach I wonder if your walking with me. So many wonders, and no answers. But in the end your pain and suffering is over. And your in heaven with the big man upstairs looking at us downstairs. Protecting us.
    I love and miss you Mike, more than words could ever explain.
    Can’t wait to see you again someday

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