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  • Missing In Florida 1:52 pm on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Diana, Family, , Friends, Harris, Kidnapped, , ,   

    My Mom Was Taken 

    My Mom, Diana Harris was taken in July, 1981.  I do not know how, or why she was taken, and I still search for answers 29 years later.

    She disappeared in the Florida Keys in July, 1981, when she was 27 years old….and I was only 10 years old.  My Mom was my world.  I remember everything about her. I miss her smile, and the way she used to wink at me. She didn’t deserve to be taken away. She taught me what love was.

    I have been told that my Mom was most likely sold for sex or drugs.  I am not sure I believe this, however the people I have heard this from range from anonymous tips, to political figures, to investigators, and some friends believe this is most likely as well.

    I believe she was murdered in 1981 while living in the Florida Keys.

    I have had 2 people who did not know each other, say they saw my Mom in 1983.  One of them is my uncle(my Dad’s brother), he said he saw her in her hometown in Owosso, Michigan.  The other is my step-Grandma, she claims she saw my Mom in Ionia, Michigan at the local fairgrounds. My Mom’s former boyfriend, Marty Delong, the man she first went to Florida with….says he heard she was alive and living in Michigan in 1983, he told me this in 2009. I had searched for Marty since I was 16 years old.

    My Mom used to take my bother and I to the fair in Owosso, MI. and I am told she did enjoy the fair. I do not believe that any of them saw her, despite their true belief and sympathy toward my loss.

    I have been told she was likely murdered and dumped into the ocean. This seems more believable to me. The problem I have with this is, if this was the case, then my Mom’s remains are long gone…..seems people would then talk, it’s been 29 yrs!! Why wouldn’t someone come forward anonymously and tell me what part of the ocean she was dumped into. I have specifically asked for this information and yet Nothing. Maybe to them it simply doesn’t matter…but it does to me, she was my Mom.

    I have been told she could be buried in the back yard of the home owned by a former, well known, Key West Attorney, Mitchell Denker. Denker is the one who actually told me this…not sure if there would be any truth to what he says…seeing as I suspect him in my Mom’s disappearance, and police suspect him of knowing more than he is telling about her disappearance.

    I realize the chances of me ever finding my Mom’s remains are not great, but I will not give up. I have seen cases where remains were found 50 years later. It is possible, so I will try. My Mom’s voice will be heard through me.

    I am concerned for the other missing people. I believe that some are alive today. They may not even know they were taken. Some may be praying right now for someone to find them. Some are not alive today, but still deserve to be found. Some are scared for their lives, and even the lives of their families may have been threatened. All missing persons have each their own circumstances of why, or how they went missing. It is not our right to judge these circumstances, no one deserves to be stolen!!

    If I can do anything to prevent another child, or adult from going missing, I will try.

    I cannot express the hurt it feels to not know where my Mom is at. Through the years I felt like giving up many times. I can move on in my life, but it doesn’t mean that I have to stop talking about my Mom…or looking for her. It has helped me to keep her memory so close in my heart. I have passed on her traditions, and I have a love of nature that I believe I gained from my Mom. I hear her in the wind, smell her when it rains, and every fall near her birthday I celebrate the life I shared with her. I am a spiritual person who seeks one more dream of my Mom.  God has answered my prayers about my Mom through dreams, through touch, through signs right when I asked for them. I could not be happier knowing my Mom is with him.

    There is a part of my heart that will hurt until I get to heaven. I missed my Mom in my childhood years. I used to sit up at night at cry myself to sleep, begging God to bring her home. I even used to pretend she was at my door, I answered the door and hugged the air….pretending it was her…just so I could feel like it really was for one second. So many used to ask me, “What would you do if you answered your door and your Mom was standing there?” so I acted this out as if she really were, I think I was 13 then. I didn’t understand then, I thought she was just real busy and knew she had her reasons.

    I know my Mom was with me when I got married, and when I gave birth to her Grandchildren. I look at everything this way now…because God has shown me that she is with me. On certain days I’ll listen to my Mom’s favorite music…this sometimes helps me to remember the good times we shared…this and talking about her like I am now.

    I missed her the most when I was addicted to drinking, and going through a terrible marriage…I missed her when I went to the park she used to take me to, and the zoo we visited often.  I missed her walking me to school and pushing me on the swings. I felt very alone at times….even questioning my own faith, while leaning in the wrong places for comfort.

    I learned to deal with my feelings in a different manner, and my faith became stronger.

    I have read so many stories about the pain a loved one of a missing person goes through, and I can understand them all. I know our missing loved ones would not want us to be sad every day.  I pray for all missing people to be found, all unidentified persons to be given their name back, and unsolved homicides to be solved. There Is Hope For All Of Us…No One Can Take Away Our Hope!! So Please Never, Ever Give Up.

    Thank You for your support.

    Christine Hill(proud daughter of Diana Harris)

    • Monica 5:55 pm on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply


      This is my nephews mother.
      Rita and my brother were never married. In fact…my brother didn’t even know he had a son until the boy was 18 and he came looking for his father. My nephew suspects that his mother may have been killed by his stepfather…but like you said “no one can take away our hope”
      I know deep inside I know my nephew carries hope in his heart that she is alive out there somewhere. Anytime he see’s someone who is homeless…he is the first to give them any money he has…he says that he does this in hopes that IF his mother is out there and homeless…that someone shows her the same kindness.Like you he has been through many struggles…he found us so he has a loving family…there is a part of him that will always ache.
      Christine…I pray that you and my nephew both receive answers and closure.

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  • Missing In Florida 8:35 am on March 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Boat, detectives, disappear, , Goodwin, Islands, , , , , ,   

    Gerald Douglas Oxby 

    Gerald Oxby

    Gerald Douglas Oxby Disappearance


    Fort Zachary
    In the beginning of august 1981 Gerald Douglas Oxby, disappeared along with his sailing-boat. After a few weeks his girlfriend, Kim Goodwin, called his mother in Wales. She was worried about Oxby and the sailing-boat they owned together. “Antares” was a 57 feet long sailing-boat that Oxby had been working on for a year or more. It was probably placed in the old navy harbour and marina at Fort Zachary in Key West (not in use any more).

    His girlfriend threatened
    On the phone Kim Goodwin explained to Oxby’s mother that a man Oxby knew had threatened her with a gun. The man who was threatening her was the last person who was ever seen with Oxby. Kim Goodwin did not describe this man on the phone. 

    Oxby’s girlfriend in Key West, Kim Goodwin, later wrote a few letters to his mother in Wales (UK). In one of them she explained, that she had tried to persuade the police in Key West to look into the disappearance of Gerald Oxby. But the police refused, so instead she turned to a private detective agency based in Key West.

    Private investigators threatened
    The “Richardson Detectives” came to the conclusion, that Oxby probably had fallen victim to a crime. Initially, they suspected that Oxby had left with the sailing-boat with the purpose of cheating Kim Goodwin from her share of the boat. In this link you can see one the first letters the two detectives wrote to Oxby’s mother in Wales:

    Read letter from detectives (pdf)

    Another letter from the detectives mentions that also the detectives had received threats from the man who knew Oxby.

    Police negligence
    Because the Key West police refused to investigate, Oxby has never officially been reported missing. So no one has been looking for him since he disappeared in August, 1981. The only hope is that ordinary citizens – like you – are willing to help.
    According to the Office of Vital Statistics, his body has not been found in the State of Florida. This means that there is a theoretical possibility that he is still alive.

    In many ways the attitude of the local police and the pattern of events resembles another disappearance in Key West. Mrs. Diana Lynn Harris went missing probably in the same week of August as Oxby. But it could also have been earlier: probably between the middle of July until early August.
    She was only 27 years old but her daughter is still looking for her. The daughter’s investigation has been going on for years and it draws on evidence that the local police in Key West was involved in organized crime. Furthermore, the police for years, seemed deliberately to work against the daughter’s efforts, building a suspicion that they were implicated in her mother’s disappearance.

    Please read Oxby’s son’s full story about his Dad here,

    • Kim Goodwin 8:50 am on June 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      my name is Kim, and I was Douglas Oxby’s girlfriend at the time. I believe during the investigation we found the person that left on the boat with Douglas and think that he murdered Douglas. Supposedly, the boat was used for a drug run and was sunk. There were no further leads that my private detective found after months of searching. Please contact me.

      • Richard Oxby 2:54 am on November 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Kim. It’s Richard, Doug’s brother. You probably remember coming to Wales, and staying a night or two all those years ago. I still remember, you were nice, although I was quite young back then. I’m still living in Wales. Just wanted to say hi, and wish you well. 🙂 x

    • Patty S Goodwin 2:01 am on July 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I remember Douglas and the story that we heard from Kim back then. It was so tragic that nothing was done at that time. The FBI would not get involved because they could not prove it was a high sea’s crime. It would be interesting to learn the fact’s about what did happen back then. To find proof after all this time.

    • Tracy Pampena 11:32 pm on January 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hello, I am the Florida Area Director for Doe Network. Could you please contact me, I have some questions about this case.

  • Missing In Florida 7:42 am on March 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , politics, radio, , US1   

    Tom Stump 

    Tom Stump 

    Tom Stump                                 

    My oldest son, Tom Stump, 41 disappeared from his home on Summerland Key, Florida, on July 24, 1995.In 2002, when I originally posted Tom’s story on this web site, I had no preconceived idea about what happened to my son.  I just knew that the circumstances of Tom’s disappearance were suspicious and there were many questions that needed answers.  Since then, however, I’ve received information that Tom may have become a threat to a major drug operation that links the Florida Keys with New Orleans.  That may or may not be true, but it has opened my mind to new possibilities, especially since learning about another drug-related missing person’s case — Diana Harris — that involves several of the same people who are linked to Tom’s case.  (See update at the end of this report.)  I’m receptive to receiving further information by private e-mail sent c/o the Real Crimes web site

     I talked with Tom by phone the day before he vanished. He had just rented a van to take his wife, Bernie, and two daughters, Bonnie, 12, and Sally, 8, on a vacation trip. He said he would call me as soon as they got back from their trip.That evening, Tom and Bernie took the girls and two of their friends out to dinner to celebrate Sally’s eighth birthday. The next morning, Tom put gas in the van and went to the bank and to the post office in preparation for the trip. About 4:30 that afternoon, Bonnie phoned to tell me that they thought her dad had committed suicide. She said, “Dad walked into the woods, walked out, walked into the woods, walked out, walked into the woods and stayed.” When I started to ask questions, Bonnie gave the phone to her mother. Bernie told me that she had “found somebody else” and had asked Tom for a divorce. (She later denied saying that.) At 7:30 p.m., Bernie contacted the Hertz car rental office and told them she needed a new set of keys, because her husband had lost the first set while swimming in a canal. She was told to call back the next day. In her second call, she said the keys were lost when her husband went out in a boat and committed suicide. At 7:53 p.m., she told another individual at the rental agency that she thought her husband had drowned himself in the ocean. My youngest son, Chad, and I immediately flew to Florida. Tom had discussed his marital problems with Chad and, as confirmed later by Tom’s business partner, Scott Haskell, Tom suspected Bernie of seeing Bill Becker, a prominent radio personality, man-about-town, and a friend to many in law enforcement – someone with a lot of “clout.” According to a newspaper article, “Bill makes or breaks the politicians in the Keys.”A search had been organized, and 26 of Tom’s friends and neighbors were combing the woods. One of Bernie’s ex-husbands, an ex-con by the name of Mark Ripin, whom Bernie still considered her “very dear friend,” was also involved in the search. When interviewed by police, the children gave different stories. Bonnie continued to maintain that her father “walked into the woods,” but Sally said he “drove off in a car,” although neither of their cars was missing.  The dog that detectives used to track Tom’s scene did not go into the woods.  Instead, it went directly to the road.Bernie stated that, during the early morning hours, Sally walked into their bedroom and found Tom cleaning his guns. Tom was a gun collector and owned six guns; according to Bernie, one of those guns, a Glock, was missing. (According to Scott Haskell, Bernie also owned a .380 caliber pistol.) Bernie told a detective that Tom had told her that he had hidden one or more guns in the woods, but hadn’t told her where they were.That detective told me privately that something didn’t seem right, and I agreed. Bernie would not allow me to talk to the children and was not happy when I was interviewed by Detective Penley. After taping interviews with Bernie, the girls, and me, Penley stated in her report, “The complainant followed me out to the car and seemed extremely nervous about my conversation with the victim’s mother.” Detective Penley also stated, “Complainant’s demeanor was very upbeat and she spoke of getting on with her life.”  A few days after Tom disappeared, his business partner and an employee went to Tom’s house to get tools from the company truck.  As they were leaving, they noticed that the recycle bin contained champagne bottles and the trash bin held black gift wrap paper and black bows. “Somebody was celebrating something,” Tom’s partner observed.  This information appears in Detective Penley’s 8/14/95 report.A man who worked at the Cudjo Key landfill contacted police to report a strange occurrence in which a woman arrived at the landfill with a pickup truck that matched the description of Tom’s pickup. The man said he helped the woman empty the truck and was struck by the unusual nature of the items she was getting rid of – a marriage license, photo albums containing wedding pictures, and personal items that obviously belonged to a man. The woman didn’t give her name, paid with cash so there was no receipt, and all the items were bulldozed into the transfer truck. Six days after Tom’s disappearance, Bernie left on vacation with the children. She returned home by herself, and the girls went to Chicago to visit their other grandparents. Bill Becker, then, began sleeping over at her house. My husband and I hired a private investigator. He is the one who found out about Tom’s preparations for a trip with his family on the day he became missing — that he filled his pickup with gas, went to the bank, and stopped the mail. The sheriff’s department supplied me with copies of their interviews with no problem, but when I requested the May-August calls to and from Tom and Bernie’s home, which Detective Penley had subpoenaed, there was no information about any calls beyond the beginning of July. When I questioned the sheriff about this, he stated in a letter, “I have been assured that if they are not included they do not exist.” That makes no sense at all, in light of all the calls that I know were made to and from that house in the days surrounding Tom’s disappearance. Many of those calls were to me at my home in Ohio.In March, 1997, I placed an ad in two newspapers that service the Florida Keys, Citizen and The Key Noter. The ad read: “A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or persons responsible in the disappearance of Tom Stump on July 24, 1995. All information confidential. Send information to (a Post Office Box).” I included Tom’s picture. In May, 1997, I called the Citizen and asked them to run the ad a second time. I was told by Randy Erickson, who was in charge of advertising, that the State Attorney had forbidden him to run the ad again. When I contacted State Attorney, Kirk Zuelch, he said his office had nothing to do with the decision and that Mr. Erickson had informed him that the paper had made the decision not to run the ad. I also received a letter from Bernie’s attorney saying that I should not run ads seeking information about Tom’s disappearance.In 2000, Tom was declared legally dead, and Bill Becker and Bernie were married. In February, 2002, Detective J. Norman gave Bernie and Bill lie detector tests. Reportedly they passed. Detective Norman’s official conclusion was, “Stump committed suicide; Stump has relocated to an unknown area; or Stump died as a result of accident, negligence or homicide.” What kind of conclusion is that?Who benefited from Tom’s death? His wife received $150,000 in insurance money, plus the house, savings, etc. His partner, Scott Haskell, received the stocks and bonds that were in his and Tom’s name and also several acres of land. It’s impossible for me to believe that Tom committed suicide and hid his own body. It is equally hard to believe that he deserted his family. He was not that kind of person. Tom was co-owner of a successful construction business and was proud of all that he and his partner had accomplished. He was a very hard worker, but above all, a dedicated father. He went in to work early each morning so that he could be there when his daughters came home from school. He was devoted to those little girls — helped them with their homework, prepared their dinners, and made sure that they did their chores. Even if his marriage to Bernie was rocky, he still had those children to live for. To walk out on his family or, worse, commit suicide on his youngest daughter’s birthday – there’s no way in the world that he would have done that. My daughter-in-law and I had always gotten along. Since Tom’s disappearance, neither Bernie nor my granddaughters will speak to me. Not only have I lost a son, I have lost an entire a family. But, whether Bernie and her new husband like it or not, I am and always will be Tom Stump’s mother, and I will continue to search and dig until I find out what happened to my son.  Update, April 2004: In March 2004, I was contacted by a woman named Christine Hill, whose mother, Diana Harris, disappeared from Big Pine Key, Florida, in October 1981, after phoning an out-of-state friend from a “party house” belonging to attorney Mitchell Denker. Diana told her friend a big drug delivery was scheduled, the guard dogs were out, and she was afraid the phones were tapped.  Like Tom, her body was never found. Christine had been running names from her mother’s case report through a search engine, and the name “Mark Ripin” took her to the Tom Stump case on the Real Crimes web site.  From information in Tom’s case report and on his message board, Christine learned that Mark Ripin was questioned in both Diana’s and Tom’s missing persons cases, and that other people who were linked to Diana’s case were also linked to Tom’s case.  Among those people is Bernie Ripin/Stump/Becker, who was married to Mark Ripin when Diana disappeared and was married to Tom Stump when Tom disappeared, and who has stated on record that she once lived in Mitchell Denker’s house.  In 2003, Denker was convicted of two felonies — Transporting Monetary Instruments and perjury, sentenced to prison, and disbarred in the state of Florida.  (For the full story, return to the home page and click on the link to “Diana Harris.”)Rose Stump, Tom’s motherP.S.  In a town near us they are putting down bricks around the downtown with family names on them.  We had one with Tom’s name.  I guess this will be the closest to a tomb stone we can give him.  This memory stone to honor Tom’s life on earth has the symbol of a buckeye leaf to signify Tom’s closeness to his Ohio Roots.  May Tom rest in peace. 

    • mbex77 2:05 am on March 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      I know that the truth about what really happened to Tom Stump will come out some day. If all I have read is true, Tom’s wife, Bernie and her entourage of husbands (ex’s and present day) know what happened to him. Sounds like there must be some law-enforcement involvement as well. Someday, someone that knows what happened will start talking! Until that day, my prayer is that Tom’s mother will have peace and be allowed to visit with her grandchildren! – A mother and grandmother

    • Christine 6:42 am on March 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for your comment and keeping Rose Stump in your prayers. Someday Tom’s case will be solved!!
      Christine Hill

    • Mia 4:33 am on July 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I also, pray for this investigation to be solved and the mystery of Tom Stump to give his poor family the peace they so deserve. Prayers to the Stump family…a friend of Rose Stump

  • Missing In Florida 12:33 pm on August 4, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , lawyer, marijuana, , , , , ,   

    Florida Key Disappearances 

    Diana Lynn Harris

    Diana Lynn Harris

    My mother, Diana Lynn Harris, 27, disappeared from Big Pine Key, Florida, in October 1981.  I was ten years old at the time.  My brother and I were in Michigan, visiting our father.  After our mother’s disappearance, our grandmother raised us.

    When I turned 17, I returned to Florida to begin my personal investigation of Mom’s disappearance.  I’ve been at it ever since.  Information I’ve recently uncovered leads me to suspect that my mother may have become a threat to an ongoing, major drug operation and that she might not have been the only person to lose her life for that reason.

     I recently ran names connected to Mom’s disappearance through a search engine.  When I ran the name “Mark Ripin” – an ex-convict, who was questioned in regard to my mom’s case — I landed on the Real Crimes web site.  My heart dropped into my shoes when I discovered that Mark Ripin was also questioned as a possible suspect in the “Tom Stump Missing Persons Case,” and that several other individuals linked to my mother’s case are also linked to Tom Stump’s case.

    On the web site I learned that Tom Stump disappeared from Sugarloaf Key, Florida, in 1995.  Like my mom, his body was never found.  At the time of his disappearance, Tom was married to Mark Ripin’s ex-wife, Bernie Ripin/Stump.  A few days prior to vanishing, Tom was telling people that he suspected Bernie of having an affair with radio talk show host Bill Becker. As soon as she was legally able to do so, Bernie married Becker.

     I recognized some of the names on the web site and on the message board as people my mom knew back in 1981.  Mark Ripin, the ex-con; Mark’s then-wife Bernie; and their attorney friend, Mitchell Denker, were part of a tight knit group of friends who partied together — and some of whom actually lived together — during that time period.  My mom was introduced to that group by a new boyfriend, Gary Vincente Argenzio, who, I’ve now found out, was another ex-convict and a close friend of Mark Ripin.  Mark Ripen was then, and still is, a close friend of Bernie’s fourth and current husband, Bill Becker, who was Bernie’s live-in boyfriend in 1980 and again began living with her after Tom Stump vanished in 1995.

    In October 1981, Mom phoned a friend in Michigan from a hot tub at attorney Mitchell Denker’s “party house” on Big Pine Key and told her that a big drug drop-off was scheduled and she was afraid the phone might be tapped.  She also mentioned guard dogs. That’s the last anybody ever heard from her.  I’ve since been told by someone in law enforcement that certain police officers attended functions at that party house and that some lost their jobs because of the activities there. 

     My grandmother filed missing person’s reports in both Michigan and Monroe County, Florida.  Nobody at the party house reported Mom missing.

    One week after Mom vanished, Gary Argenzio stole a boat that belonged to a man named Robert Thompson.  Mitchell Denker told me that Gary also stole two motorcycles from him and possibly a gun.  Mark Ripin has since told me that he and Denker owned a boat together, and Denker once allowed Gary to take this boat out and Gary ran it with no oil and blew the motor.  Is that why Gary took Robert Thompson’s boat instead of Denker’s?

    Another vehicle that was missing was a car that belonged to Mom’s friend Donna.   Donna thought it was taken by a man named “Mark” who lived on No Name Key, which is where Mark Ripin and his wife Bernie lived at that time.  However, she also added that she believed that man was Mitchell Denker’s cousin, who worked at Denker’s law office.  It’s possible she may have confused Mark Ripin with Mitchell Denker’s cousin, Michael Gilbert, who died of a drug overdose in the ‘80s.  Which one was it?

    After Argenzio ran off to Mexico, Denker allegedly found Donna’s car on a side road.  He has stated that he believes Gary Argenzio took the car, perhaps to transport Mom’s body, and claims to have checked it for forensic evidence and found none.  Denker is an attorney, not a forensic expert.  Why didn’t he turn the car over to the authorities for a professional work-up?

     Detective Richard Conrady and Detective Lynn McNeil of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department were originally the lead detectives in Mom’s case.  In June 1995, when Mom’s case was being re-investigated as a possible homicide, Detective Phil Harrold questioned Mitchell Denker.  Denker told Detective Harrold that Mom was murdered and suggested that she speak with Argenzio’s friend Mark Ripin.  Ripin told him he believed Argenzio killed Mom and dumped her body in the ocean.

     In July 1982, Gary Argenzio was arrested in Mexico, but he wasn’t charged with Mom’s murder.  Instead, (under the name “Gary Vincento”), he was charged and found guilty of stealing Robert Thompson’s boat.  Mitchell Denker’s cousin, Michael Gilbert, a member of Denker’s law firm, defended Gary Argenzio pro bono.  Argenzio was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. 

    In May 1990, I contacted Mitchell Denker by phone, and he informed me that he’d sold the party house in 1984.  He said he was going to Turkey on business for two weeks and to call him when he got back.  When I called him again, he acted like he’d never before talked to me.

        In 1992, Gary Argenzio was convicted of another felony.  Five days later, he died in his Broward County home in Dania, Florida, allegedly of pneumonia. 

    But I wasn’t going to give up.  Approximately January 1995, I again contacted Mitchell Denker.  This time he told me that he thought Gary Argenzio might have buried my mother in Denker’s back yard.  As a result of Denker’s new statement, I was able to convince the Sheriff’s Department to reactivate my mother’s case.  When questioned in June 1995 by Detective Harrald, Denker said it would have been impossible to bury a body in his yard because of the guard dogs and the coral.  Detective Harrald told me the yard had been cemented over so it could not be searched or dug up.

    Mitchell Denker asked Harrold if his original statement from 1981 still existed.  When Det. Harrold assured him it did not, Denker and Mark Ripin informed him that Argenzio had admitted to smashing Mom’s head into the wall of Denker’s house.  Both men stated that they saw the hole in the wall with blood spatters, but Denker described the hole as being in his bedroom and Ripin described it as being by the back door.  Detective Lynn McNeil, who investigated the case in 1981, recalled no such damage.  She also told me that she and Det. Conrady had checked the woods in the yard for any evidence and had found none.  How could the back yard have had woods on it, when Denker said it was solid coral?

     In July 1995 – at approximately the same time my mother’s case was reactivated – Tom Stump disappeared from his home on Sugarloaf Key.  The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department was investigating both the Stump case and Mom’s case simultaneously and was interrogating Mark Ripin in regard to both missing persons cases.  Yet apparently nobody found anything the slightest bit suspicious about the fact that the same man was linked to both cases.

    In the summer of 2003, Mitchell Denker was convicted of two felonies —  Transporting Monetary Instruments and perjury.  He was sentenced to five months in prison and disbarred in the state of Florida.  This proof that Denker was as much of a crook as Mark Ripin and Gary Argenzio caused me to start wondering if all three men might have been involved in my mother’s disappearance.  I immediately requested that Detective James Norman of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department provide me with reports from their 1981 and 1995 investigations.  Det. Norman informed me that the files from 1981 did not exist.  I was not surprised to hear this, because my Grandma had been trying to get those files for years and had been told they didn’t exist.  I was stunned, however, to be told now that former Sheriff William Freeman had deliberately destroyed all case files from the years 1981-1983 and some from 1984.  Det. Norman said he couldn’t say why for sure, but had heard a rumor about a big drug bust called the “Big Pine 29” that occurred on Big Pine Key during that time period.  Mitchell Denker was the defense attorney for one of the suspected drug smugglers. 

    I contacted Sheriff Richard Roth to ask him about Mom’s files.  Sheriff Roth told me that, in 1981, he was a detective and remembers this incident.  He said it wasn’t an uncommon thing back then for the Sheriff to get rid of old case files.  However, when Mom’s files were destroyed they were not old at all!  My Grandma was still communicating with detectives about the case.

    But I did receive the reports from the 1995 investigation, which is how I got the names to run through the search engine.  When Mark Ripin’s name took me to the Tom Stump case, I posted a question on the message board, asking if anyone had heard of  “Mitchell Denker.”

     Someone responded by quoting a post by Mark Ripin in which he cryptically asked:  “What’s the connection? Manny the shark hunter, Mitchell Denker, the lawyer?” (I’ve since found out that Manilito “Manny” Pluig, a shark hunter who swims with the sharks, was hired by Bernie Ripin/Stump/Becker to aid in the search for Tom.  The answer to Ripin’s question could well be:  “Both men swim with the sharks,” one literally, one figuratively.) 

    Someone else posted a quote from Bernie’s deposition in which she admitted to living in Mitchell Denker’s house.  Since Bernie was married to Mark Ripin at that time, that would seem to suggest that they both were on the premises when Mom vanished.  Bernie has since told me she knew my mom and my mom showed her photos of my brother and me.  Yet, Bernie didn’t bother to report Mom missing, even though Bernie’s own husband said he saw a hole in the wall that was made by Mom’s head.

    Another thing I find bewildering is that, when requestioned by police in 1995, Mitchell Denker — a practicing attorney who should know the law — stated that in his opinion there was more than enough evidence to indict Gary Argenzio for my mom’s murder, but the Sheriff’s Department hadn’t seemed interested in pursuing it.  He specifically cited Mom’s disappearance and missing body and Argenzio’s flight with Robert Thompson’s boat.  Yet, back in 1982, when Argenzio was tried for stealing that boat, Mitchell Denker’s cousin, a member of his own law firm, defended Argenzio for free, and nobody even mentioned my missing mother.  In fact, Mark Ripin testified in Argenzio’s behalf.

    My mom was a wonderful mother, and I loved her dearly, but she led a difficult life.  After an abusive marriage that ended in divorced, she witnessed her brother shoot himself in the mouth.  She attempted to self-medicate by smoking marijuana, but that did little to erase the gristly vision.  She relocated to Florida in an effort to escape that awful memory, and continued to smoke marijuana.  But she never used hard drugs until she met Gary Argenzio, and I doubt that she had any idea what she was getting into when she started her association with that group of people.

    I had my mother for only ten years, but I thank God for every one of them.  I have beautiful memories of my life with her. She worked hard, cooked wonderful food, and was never too busy to play with my brother and me.  She was a very affectionate mother and, no matter how tired she was or how weighed down by worries, she gave us unstinting love and attention.

     My mom was my world.  For 25 years I’ve been trying to find out what happened to her, and I will not stop until I get an answer that makes sense.

    Christine Hill (Diana Harris’s daughter) 


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