By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Donna kept making phone calls until 1:30 a.m. She called the Coast Guard again and pleaded with the duty officer to look for Gary. He told her that in order for the agency to conduct a search, it needed a confirmed flight plan. Frustrated, she called the Federal Aviation Administration in Miami to see if there was one. The agency told her to call back the next morning. She fell asleep and was back on the phone at 8 a.m.
That day, December 16, several friends and neighbors visited Donna. It was a somber affair; they brought food and drink, and all of them seemed to be in mourning. This is like a wake, Donna thought. They're acting like somebody died.
Donna went into her bedroom by herself and got back on the phone. That day, she spoke three more times with the FAA to no avail. She again paged Krugh.
This time, he finally phoned her back.
"What happened to Gary?" she asked.
"I don't know," he told her. "I don't have any idea."
"Randy, they can't find Gary. I'm calling everywhere trying to find him. I need your help."
"OK, I'll be right over."
When he arrived at Donna's apartment, the balding and mustachioed Krugh seemed upset, which wasn't surprising considering that his old friend was missing. What Donna didn't know at the time was that he had a lot more to worry about than just Gary. It would take years for her to discover just how much trouble Krugh was in on that day in December.
To almost every question that Donna asked, Krugh professed ignorance. When she asked about planes Gary may have flown on, he finally gave her a lead: the tail number N88KP. It was a Beechcraft Queen Air that his "contacts" in the Bahamas often used. Like Sims, Krugh mentioned that Gary may have been on the way to Colombia.
"I don't know," Krugh said before leaving the apartment.
Newly invigorated, Donna contacted the Nassau airport and gave the tail number to an airport official who gave his name as "Mr. Major." He discovered that the Beechcraft had indeed taken off at 10:46 a.m. December 9, shortly after she spoke to Gary on the phone. According to the flight plan, there were three people aboard, including a pilot named "Boudreau." The plane was supposed to be going to Hog Key, a private island in the Exuma Cays in the southern Bahamas.
The pilot never radioed the tower after taking off, Mr. Major explained, so the flight was never confirmed. Donna desperately wanted a search. She was tormented by the specter of Gary out in the water needing to be rescued. But when she phoned the Coast Guard, an officer repeated the rule: no flight plan, no search.
For the next few days, she feverishly worked the phone, calling the American Embassy in Nassau, the State Department, and the FAA. Through the embassy, Donna was able to contact the Bahamian Defense Force, which, unlike the Coast Guard, conducted an air search.
It turned up nothing.
When Gary asked her out, Donna couldn't resist. Every day after that, they were together. He would bring her fresh-picked wildflowers; no telling where he got them. And he liked to park on the side of the road -- Coral Springs was mostly rural country back then -- and just look up at the stars with her.
Gary quickly proved to be a wonderful guide to South Florida, which was a hundred times bigger and more exciting than the Jersey Shore. When he wasn't working, he played. He could walk into a restaurant and make a handful of friends before food was on the table. He took her to barbecues at Krugh's Boca Raton home and out on double dates with his buddy and co-worker, J.P. Delaney. Donna became close to Delaney's girlfriend, Sheila, who had a 5-year-old son named Brian. She loved to be around the boy and so did Gary, who would play with Brian for hours at a time.
Gary was like a hyper kid, except that he always had a beer in his hand and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Gary had to be moving. And he could have an animated, ten-minute tiff with Brian over who got to play with which Tonka truck. She thought he would make a good father.
But he was also mischievous. Once he took her out to the Everglades and as they stood by the car, he yelled, "A snake!"
The exclamation led to Donna's thirteenth concussion. She jumped headfirst into the side of the car and was knocked out cold. There was, of course, no snake.
One of his favorite pastimes was tossing golf balls on the fairway behind his apartment to confuse the players. He would crack up as they tried to sort out which ball was theirs.
Donna found his antics both maddening and endearing. She was in love before she knew it. She moved into his Coral Springs apartment after only a few months of dating and five months after that became pregnant. Though the pregnancy was unplanned, Donna and Gary were ecstatic. On December 10, 1982, less than a year after their first date, they married in a small ceremony in Fort Lauderdale. On that day, Krugh, his boss and old friend, took on a third role in Gary's life: best man.