By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
"Wouldn't it be great if they were born on my birthday?" he asked her excitedly.
The ploy didn't work. Instead Lauren and Leanna emerged precisely on their due date, May 16, 1982. They arrived fifteen minutes apart. The girls, at just over five pounds each, could fit comfortably on one pillow. Photographs taken the day the girls came home from the hospital show Gary carrying them into the apartment, his eyes beaming with fatherly pride. Donna carried the bags.
Sgt. John Cobban, who was assigned Gary's missing person's case, asked Donna point-blank: Was he involved in drug smuggling?
Donna told him no, Gary had nothing to do with the drug trade. It was the first time the subject had been raised.
The sergeant retraced Donna's work, calling all the same agencies, police reports show. Cobban tried to contact both Sims and Fisher but wasn't able to reach them and never tracked them down. The sergeant, who has since retired, discovered that Sims had been arrested on drug charges in the past and was a suspected smuggler. He also discovered that the Beechcraft plane was known to have been involved in drug-smuggling trips.
Even as police uncovered facts, Donna's hope of finding her husband was fading. She came to believe that if he wasn't gone forever, he would find a way to call by December 25, the twins' first Christmas. Gary had been talking about the holiday for weeks before he vanished. He couldn't wait to shop for the girls.
But for Donna the day was tense and heartbreaking. While family and friends opened gifts in her home, she stayed in her room by the phone, waiting for the call. At the day's end, when she lay down to sleep, she cried harder than ever before. The truth reverberated in her mind: Gary isn't coming home.
But that realization didn't deter her from her search. And about a month after Gary's disappearance came a strange call. It was from a Colombian whom Donna knew only as Hernando. She vaguely remembered him from her daughters' christening the previous fall. Krugh had escorted the man called "Nando" around and had treated him as if were royalty.
She drove to the parking lot, and a few minutes later, Hernando, a short and seemingly affable middle-age man, walked up to her Oldsmobile. "Come over here," he said stealthily, leading her to his red sedan.
They sat inside.
"Listen, you shouldn't be talking to the police," he began.
"What? How can I find Gary if I don't get help from the police?" she asked, mystified.
"Jeff Fisher is getting a little angry," he continued.
"He's angry? I'm the one who's angry," she remembers saying.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"You tell Jeff Fisher I'm the one who is angry," she almost yelled at Hernando. "I want Gary's things, and I want his clothes, and I want the money he's owed. I can't even pay the rent. I want every single thing Gary left at that house."
She broke into tears. Hernando tried to calm her, telling her it would be okay. Then Donna composed herself and got to what she thought was the point.
"What about Cuba?"
Hernando stalled and muttered something about a possibility Gary might be there, but he didn't elaborate.
She left him in the parking lot and drove home.
The Coral Springs Police Department investigation, meanwhile, was sputtering to a close. After Gary's dental records were obtained, the probe was shut down with these words: "Until new information becomes available, this case will be inactive pending,"
Inactive pending. That was it. Donna was on her own.
Gary seemed to have been born for the Seventies, puffing on Kool cigarettes, drinking Budweiser, listening to his beloved Rolling Stones, and occasionally smoking pot with his friends. Donna still has a picture of Krugh grinning on her couch with a rolled joint in his hand. She went along with it, though she rarely touched marijuana. She would tell everyone that she got plenty just sitting in the same room with the smoke.
Even when Gary overdid it, Donna usually didn't get mad. He would crack jokes and make her laugh so hard she simply couldn't. And besides, his partying wasn't really a problem. No matter what he did the night before, Gary always rose early every morning and worked hard on the bulldozer from dawn till dusk. On the weekends, he'd employ his gift with machines. Gary did his best thinking with his hands; he'd been taking apart and assembling engines since he was in middle school and was a certified master diesel mechanic. He could fix anything, which was why the work in the Bahamas seemed natural for him.
Donna says she never saw her husband touch any hard drugs. In fact she'd seen cocaine only once in her life, back in her hometown. A date asked her if she wanted to snort some. "It will give you more energy," he goaded her.