Twenty-five years ago this month, my husband Gary suddenly vanished without a trace. This year, just as I have every year before, I find myself reliving the moments I last saw his face and heard his voice. And I become more determined than ever to find his remains and bring his killer to justice.
I met Gary in December of 1981. One year later we were married and the following spring we were blessed with the birth of our twin daughters. I was the luckiest girl in the world—I was in love and married to my best friend, and I had two beautiful, healthy, and happy babies. Like many new families just starting out, money was a little tight and when Gary was offered an opportunity to make some extra money fixing diesel engines in the Bahamas, I encouraged him to take the job, assuring him the girls and I would be fine for the 2 or 3 days he would be gone.
The corrupt former FBI agent in the story, Dan Mitrione Jr. went bad while heading Operation Airlift, a major undercover drug smuggling investigation. Immediately after resigning from the FBI in June 1983, Mitrione became business partners with his murderous confidential informant, Hilmer Sandini. Their business partnership dissolved when a plastic explosive was found under Sandini's car in 1984. Fortunately, the bomb was discovered before it went off, potentially killing many innocent people. Although it kept its findings secret at the time, the FBI issued an internal memo stating their belief that it was Mitrione who planted the bomb:
"This investigation, which is being conducted by a special FBIHQ [headquarters] investigative team, has been severely hampered by recent developments indicating a strong likelihood that Mitrione is culpable in the attempted murder of Sandini."
In March 1985, the former agent was convicted of violations of the bribery statute and drug trafficking. The special FBIHQ investigative team was headed by agent John Morris of the FBI's Boston office. At the time, Morris also supervised agent John J. Connolly who was recently convicted of murder in Miami, Florida. It was also discovered that Morris took bribes from his confidential informants just weeks before coming to Florida to head the Mitrione investigation.
Gary was not the only person to disappear and be murdered during the Airlift debacle. After Bob Norman's four part New Times series, "Finding Gary", I was contacted by the family of Jairo Sanchez (pictured right) who said their loved one disappeared the same day as my husband, and they did recognize the names, dates, and places in the articles. After meeting with them, Norman wrote a fifth installment to the series—"Finding Jairo."