By Terrence McCoy
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Donna was telling the truth as she knew it, but as time wore on, she would hold back information from Gary's family. She didn't tell the Weaver family about later suspicions that Gary might have been involved in smuggling. "I didn't want to hurt them more than they already were," she explains of her secret.
What she didn't know was that Gary's relatives never needed Donna to tell them that Gary's disappearance was almost surely connected to cocaine. Tim Weaver says his brother seemed destined for a terrible end long before he ever left Ohio for South Florida. The family knew Gary had an addiction, the disease that fueled the immensely profitable drug trade.
After a seemingly happy boyhood spent playing Little League baseball and feeding his fascination for cars and engines, Gary began hanging out with the "not-good crowd" and getting into trouble, Tim says. It started out with kid stuff like stealing candy and cigarettes. Then he began drinking beer and smoking pot. He tried cocaine, and he was hooked.
Gary battled his drug problem for several years -- and always lost. He was arrested on narcotics charges at least twice, Tim recalls. Rehab did little good. Gary started dealing cocaine in Ohio to pay for his own habit. "My dad asked who he was working for, and he said he couldn't say," Tim recalls. "Gary said he'd be killed if he told."
Paul Weaver didn't want to talk about the day Gary vanished. He says he hopes the truth will come out, but he can't bear to relive the past anymore. "We've gone through a lot, and we would like to know what happened to our son," he said in a measured and obviously pained voice. "But this brings back so much hurt, and we just want to live in peace. We don't have much time left on this Earth."
After his 25th birthday, Gary left Ohio and headed south for Florida, telling his family he wanted to escape the drugs and trouble he'd found in Convoy. But that only worried Tim more. "When you want to get away from drugs, you don't go to the Miami area," he says. "At least not back then, when it was the drug capital of the world. It didn't make any sense at all."
About six months before Gary disappeared, Tim visited Fort Lauderdale for spring break and met up with his brother. Gary, then 29 years old, partied with Tim and his friends, who were high school seniors, as if he were one of them. Though Gary didn't openly do any hard drugs, Tim suspected his brother was back to his old ways. "He hadn't changed a lot -- he was still a wild ass," he remembers.
Not long after that, Gary disappeared and his little brother's suspicions fell upon Donna. He thought she might have been involved with drugs too. Now, after many years of slowly getting to know his sister-in-law, he believes differently. "I think she was just naive," he says. "You had to know Gary. He could really charm you."
But Tim acknowledges he had no idea what his brother was doing. One of Gary's best friends, J.P. Delaney, had a better understanding. And he too kept what he knew from Donna until recently, when, after more than two decades, he decided it was time to tell her.
Delaney remembers the day he and Gary arrived at the Opa-locka Airport sometime in 1982, about a year before Gary disappeared. Randy Krugh, who employed both men, had asked them to put seats back into a Cessna 172 and "dust-bust" it thoroughly. Delaney says he and Gary weren't naive about what they were doing.
They were going to clean a drug plane.
"Me and Gary were just the low guys in it," says Delaney. "I mean dirt low, buddy."
When they arrived at the airport, Delaney says, they noticed the tires on the landing gear were flat. He suspected that federal agents might have flattened the tires to ground the plane. Already suspicious, they then saw men approaching them from opposite sides of the tarmac. They ran.
"We thought it might have been Customs and DEA, and we took off," recalls Delaney, who worked alongside Gary at Terra Movers, the excavation company owned by Krugh. "We got out in the nick of time. After that I said, 'I'm done with this.' And I was. I never did that stuff again. But Gary kept going. He kept going with it."
Gary was not only eager to make drug money, he also used the product. His cocaine use was at times out of control, though Delaney says his marriage and the twins' birth seemed to change him.
Just not enough.
"Gary was a wonderful guy," Delaney says. "He was just a really likable guy, and I looked up to him. But I saw that this great friend who used to play with my girlfriend's son was becoming a Scarface. He was becoming one of them. He once told me he could do exactly what Randy Krugh was doing. All he needed was a translator."