Judy Briggs never liked her sister's husband, William Hurst.
Amy Rose Hurst seemed different when he was around; quiet, withdrawn. When Amy Rose went missing in 1982, Briggs figured Hurst had something to do with it.
It took nearly 30 years for police to arrest him.
Hurst, 59, is charged with murder. Amy Rose was 29, a mother of two, when she was killed by a blow to the head, tied to a concrete block and tossed into the Gulf of Mexico.
"He's a no-good scumbag that killed my sister 30 years ago," Briggs said on Wednesday after authorities announced that Hurst had been arrested in Dawson Springs, Ky., his home for several years. He is charged with first-degree murder and remains incarcerated in Kentucky, awaiting extradition to Florida. Authorities did not release details on how they connected him to his wife's death.
"I hope he goes to jail and rots," said Briggs, who lives near Stuart.
In 1982, Amy Rose and William Hurst had moved from Michigan to New Port Richey. Her two children from her first marriage were living with their father in Michigan. Amy Rose worked as a cashier at Winn-Dixie. Her family knew something was wrong when she didn't call on her mother's birthday, Aug. 15. Hurst said Amy Rose had left him and he didn't know where she was. That was the last time anyone in her family had contact with him, relatives said.
Until July, they didn't know what happened to her. That's when tests revealed she was the woman found floating near Anna Maria Island on Sept. 5, 1982. She had been wrapped in a green bedspread and an afghan. A rope looped around the waist was tethered to a concrete block. An autopsy showed she died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Her son Jeff Earley, 39, said investigators in Kentucky revealed that Hurst told them he fought with his wife when she slipped and hit her head.
Earley was the catalyst for his mother's cold case investigation. He had always been haunted by her disappearance. A few years ago, he asked his wife for help and she found the Doe Network, an online database with information about missing people. His wife found the case of the unidentified woman found off Anna Maria Island. Earley contacted authorities that led to Hurst's arrest.
"He took my mom from me, from my sister, from my aunts, my grandma, my cousins," Earley said. "And what did he do? He got to run around for 29 years. He got to see his kids, his grandkids.
"He killed my mom and then we do a sentence for something he did. Now the tables have turned. We get to see him serve his sentence."
Earley said he has thought about his mother every day since she went missing. Mother's Day was always difficult. But getting through her birthday each year was the worst.
"I just want answers," Earley said. "I want to know why."
Earley said Hurst told detectives he kept Amy Rose's body for three days before throwing her in the sea. Earley's sister, Lisa Beebe, 41, can't stop thinking about those three days: What if he's telling the truth? Was she still alive? Could she have been saved? Did she suffer?
"He's a monster in my eyes," Beebe said.
She and Earley said they remember their stepfather beating their mother. They remember her hiding her bruises.
"I'm thankful he's finally been arrested and he's behind bars," Beebe said. "Now he can face the judge, jury and ultimately his maker."
She and her brother said they got used to the pain of not knowing what happened to their mother. Beebe said life was easier when she was missing.
"I hoped she maybe had amnesia and didn't know who she was," Beebe said.
But now, knowing Amy Rose was murdered, Beebe and other relatives are grieving as though it were new. Briggs has been crying for three days. For Earley, the mourning comes in waves.
A few weeks ago, the family had a memorial service for Amy Rose. It was at a lake where she spent summers playing with her sisters. Her family put her ashes in a box and placed it on the lake. Beebe and Earley threw rose petals on the box and when the box sank, the petals floated on the surface. It was beautiful and peaceful, said Beebe. She kept some ashes and put them in a tiny, heart-shaped urn that fits in her palm. She's been holding it often.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.