NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County deputies are looking for a missing Homosassa man and the business partner with whom he had planned to meet. They suspect foul play, and the man's wife already is consumed with grief about what may have happened to him.
On Wednesday night, Billy Shuler, 69, of 19 Hemlock Court in Homosassa, told his wife he was going to Holiday to meet with Anthony Maresca, 51. They had worked together selling collectible coins at area flea markets, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. That was the last time Shuler was seen.
The next day, his wife reported him missing to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, Nocco said during a news conference Friday. Citrus County investigators contacted Shuler's phone service provider to ping his phone. The coordinates led them to a storage unit at 5334 Provost Drive in Holiday. They notified the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
There, Pasco deputies found Shuler's 2010 Dodge truck outside one of the units. Lt. Eric Seltzer of the sheriff's major crimes division said it is unclear who owns the storage unit. Shuler was not there. Evidence the deputies found, which Nocco would not specify, led them to think that foul play was involved.
"This is why we need to find where Tony is," Nocco said.
Maresca, of 1726 Tumbleweed Drive in Holiday, was last seen near Tarpon Springs. Nocco addressed Maresca directly as TV news cameras rolled.
"You shouldn't be on the run if everything's okay," he said.
Shuler's wife, Esther, and son Dan briefly met with reporters outside their Homosassa home Friday afternoon.
Dan Shuler, the youngest of the couple's three sons, who all live in Ohio, flew to Florida after he heard the news. He kept an arm around his mother during their statements while she leaned on a walker. They seemed hopeful at times, grim at others.
"I beg, please," Dan Shuler told reporters, courtesy of Bay News 9 video. "I want to spend Father's Day with my dad."
They spoke of his generosity, how he spent the past four decades as a church minister. He was careful in his coin business, they said, always carrying two guns with him to his deals. Esther Shuler recalled celebrating her 50th anniversary with her husband last year.
"They didn't have to kill him or do whatever they did to him," she said. "All they had to do was ask." She collapsed onto her walker and sobbed.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office's tip line toll-free at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).