"It is definitely very odd to have them stolen in the first place," Marion County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jenifer Lowe told AOL News. "Then, what they did with them is just beyond bizarre, to me anyway."
Lowe said the sheriff's office has all five teens in custody and suspects they were involved in 20 unsolved burglaries. Three of the suspects arrested Wednesday have been identified: Matrix Andaluz, 18, Waldo Soroa, 19, and Jose David Diaz Marrero, 19. The other two suspects have not been identified because of their ages. All five face numerous charges connected with the cases, police said.
"We got information from a lady who had knowledge of the burglary," Lowe said. "Once she found out they were someone's remains, she felt compelled to come forward and tell us about it. We identified several suspects, and once we tracked them down, they gave a full confession to that burglary and several others."
According to Lowe, detectives learned that the ashes had been taken because the suspects mistook them for either cocaine or heroin.
"They snorted them and tasted them and said, 'I don't really think that's what these are,'" Lowe said. "They [then] took them to a friend that thought it was cement mix, so he hung on to them. ... The rest of the kids [later] saw in the newspaper the whole story and realized they were ashes."
Surprisingly, this is not the first time a thief may have mistakenly snorted ashes. According to an April 2005 report by Seattle's KIRO-TV, a thief grabbed a purse belonging to an Oregon woman named Mary Woodhull. The purse contained the cremated remains of her dogs. The handbag was later found with everything intact -- minus the remains, which had been inside four separate envelopes.
"Police said it's possible drug users stole the purse and may have snorted the remains of Woodhull's dogs," the news station reported.
Follow-up stories indicate that the remains of the dogs were never recovered.
"If they snorted my dogs, God help them," Woodhull said in December 2005, according to ABC's "Good Morning America."
The teens in Florida have allegedly told police that they initially had "some kind of internal conflict" and considered returning the remains. But they decided it was too risky and threw the dogs' ashes in a nearby lake. One of the defendants later directed investigators to the location where the remains had been thrown in, Lowe said.
The sheriff's office said that while tampering with the ashes, the suspects unwittingly put the victim's father's ashes into one of the two wooden boxes containing the dogs' remains and a dog's ashes were placed in the father's urn. Police said that the father's remains and those of one of the dogs had been recovered. Detectives were still trying to locate the urn containing the other Great Dane's ashes, which was not thrown in the lake.
Lowe said the ashes recovered from the lake were still "in the box and the plastic bag that comes in the box. They look like they are salvageable. [The victim] can probably take them to wherever they do cremations and they can dry them out and salvage them."