Finding Gary, Part 1

After 21 years, Donna Weaver seems to finally be zeroing in on her lost husband

As the petite Donna grew huge with the twins, her new husband quite literally couldn't wait to become a father. On April 9, Gary's 30th birthday, he drove Donna in a big work truck to one of the new housing developments he was helping to build. There, he sped up and down a bumpy dirt road. As they were being tossed about in the cab of the truck, he told her that he hoped all the bouncing would bring forth the babies.

"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 15 minutes apart. The girls, at just over five pounds each, could fit comfortably on one pillow. Photographs taken on the day they brought the girls home from the hospital show that Gary carried the girls into the apartment, his eyes beaming with fatherly pride. Donna carried the bags.

Donna looks out onto the Bahamian waters from her hotel balcony in Nassau.
Bob Norman
Donna looks out onto the Bahamian waters from her hotel balcony in Nassau.

Sgt. John Cobban, who was assigned to Gary's missing-person's case, asked Donna point-blank: Was her husband 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 own work, calling all the same agencies, police reports show. Cobban tried to contact 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 Queen Air was known to have been involved in drug-smuggling trips.

Even as police uncovered scintillating 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 chaperoned the man called "Nando" around and treated him as if were visiting royalty.

On the phone, Hernando told Donna in nearly flawless English that he thought Gary's plane might have been intercepted over Cuban waters and asked her to meet him at an Amtrak station in Hollywood.

She drove to the parking lot, and a few minutes after pulling in, Hernando, a short and seemingly affable middle-aged man, walked up to her Oldsmobile. He was stealthy. "Come over here," he said, leading her to his own red sedan.

They sat down 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's getting a little angry," Hernando 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 that 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 that Gary left at that house."

She broke into tears. Hernando tried to calm her, telling her it would be OK. 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 1970s, always smoking Kool cigarettes, drinking a Budweiser, perpetually listening to his beloved Rolling Stones, and, on occasion, smoking pot. She still has a picture of Krugh grinning on her couch with a rolled joint in his hand. Donna went along for the ride, though she rarely touched marijuana. She would tell everyone that she got plenty high 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 dusk till dawn. On 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 now he was a certified master diesel mechanic. He could fix anything, which was why the work in the Bahamas seemed natural for him.

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