TARPON SPRINGS — A Homosassa man found dead Friday was known to his friends and fellow coin collectors as a nomad. Among flea marketers, it's a term that means in the search for rare coins, he followed the most valuable pieces.
Billy Shuler was an active member of the West Hernando Coin Club, club president Guy Ventre said Tuesday, the day Pasco sheriff's investigators identified a body found during the weekend in Tarpon Springs as that of the 69-year-old Shuler.
Hernando County coin collector John Zieman said he knew Shuler for five years. Lately, he would come every Wednesday to a flea market where Zieman peddles his wares. He said they'd laugh and talk coins.
The last time Zieman saw him was a week ago. Shuler stopped by the flea market, but Zieman didn't get the chance to talk to him.
"He was a great guy," Zieman said. "He'd give you the shirt off his back."
Shuler's good nature and generosity were why Zieman said he was shocked someone would harm his friend.
Shuler's body was found in a wooded area south of B21 Liquors, 43380 U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office. Investigators confirmed the identity through fingerprints.
Deputies are still looking for Shuler's business partner with whom he had planned to meet.
On May 21, Shuler, 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 at area flea markets, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Shuler never returned, and his wife reported him missing the next day.
Investigators later discovered his truck parked outside a storage unit at 5334 Provost Drive in Holiday. They said they found evidence in the truck to suggest foul play.
They are still searching for Maresca, of 1726 Tumbleweed St. in Holiday.
Zieman said he felt terrible when he learned of Shuler's death, but he felt worse for Shuler's wife, Esther.
Esther Shuler and the couple's youngest son, Dan Shuler, met with reporters Friday afternoon and pleaded for Billy Shuler's return. Mrs. Shuler recalled celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
During one of their Wednesday meetings, Zieman said he asked Shuler how he managed 50 years of marriage.
"I asked him 'What's it like being married 50 years?' " Zieman said. "He told me 'When you find the right person, it's not that hard.' "
Anyone with any information about the whereabouts of Maresca or this case can call Tampa Bay Crime Stoppers, toll-free, at 1-800-873-8477.