Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seeking Truth and Justice . . . 25 Years Later

by Donna Weaver

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.

I last spoke to Gary on the morning of December 9, 1983 when he called to say he was almost finished with his work and had just purchased his plane ticket at the airport in Nassau to return home the next day. We happily talked of the plans we had for after I picked him up at the airport. We were going straight to my Mothers of Twins club Christmas party where the babies would sit on Santa's lap for the first time—something Gary was excited about as he had been eagerly anticipating the girls’ first Christmas almost since the day they were born. The following day, December 11th, was to be our first wedding anniversary. We were laughing on the phone about the prospect of eating the top of our wedding cake with the babies—all of us with our fingers! And I had a surprise for him—one of the babies had started to say Da-Da while he was away, and I couldn’t wait to see his face when he heard it for the first time. So many happy days ahead!

On December 10th, I stood eagerly waiting at the airport gate with the babies next to me in their double stroller. Gary didn't come home on the plane that day, and I never saw him again. He disappeared without a trace, and the last time anyone saw him was 45 minutes after I last spoke with him on the telephone the day before. I had very little information about who Gary was working for and where he was staying in the Bahamas.

It wasn't until the year 1999 that I learned Gary disappeared and was most likely murdered somewhere on Andros Island as a result of FBI Operation Airlift.

I learned of Airlift and its dirty little secrets by an amazing stroke of luck. I was working as a part-time bartender in Fort Lauderdale when I happened to see a copy of the weekly news magazine New Times laying on the empty bar when I arrived at work. Staring up at me from the cover was a full page photograph of an elderly man with the caption "Oldfella." I'm not sure why, but that face captivated me. I brought the paper home with me that night, but didn't pick it up again until two days later. After reading the feature article by Bob Norman, the circumstances of Gary's disappearance seemed to fit. Although I didn't recognize any of the names mentioned in the article, I felt certain that I would at last discover what had happened to my husband. I contacted Norman and asked him about other names he may have learned that were not included in his article, which told a tale of drug smuggling, murder, and a corrupt FBI agent. The first name he gave me was Randy Krugh. "Oh my God" I replied. "Randy Krugh was Best Man at my wedding!"

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."

Twenty-five years later we have almost all of our answers, and I believe that soon, those responsible for the murders of Gary Weaver and Jairo Sanchez will answer for what they have done.


Kathryn Casey said...

Fascinating post, Donna. You've done so much to piece the puzzle of Gary's death together, amazing work, more, I know, than you've been able to go into here. Bet Gary is looking down on you and the twins and smiling!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is incredible. Bless you and your family after what you've been thru!

Unknown said...

I am speechless after reading the articles. Incredible story and scary to think our own government would not help. Bless you as you continue your search. You are truly a strong and brave woman!

Donna Weaver said...

Thank you all very much for your kind comments. It is my hope to see these cases resolved soon. I won't stop until they are.

Vanessa Leggett said...

Powerful post, Donna. Thank you for giving us a snapshot of your story. Can't wait to read the book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna,

I hope you get all the answers you are seeking. I resd all of your previous posts and attachments about this case and I wish you all the best. Please keep us updated.

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Donna, I too am near speechless upon reading your story...I am so sorry for your pain, yet so inspired by your strength!

I can only imagine how very proud your girls must be of their Mama!

Many prayers and hope!

Robin Sax said...

What a great post, really enjoyed it, and can't wait to read the book!