Decades later, a mystery ends in sadness for a Pasco family

The search for Gregory Greco led to a body that had been found floating near the Clearwater Pass in the Gulf of Mexico in 1987. 

Family photo

The search for Gregory Greco led to a body that had been found floating near the Clearwater Pass in the Gulf of Mexico in 1987. 

PORT RICHEY — In the beginning of August 1987, Gregory Greco left his car, with all of his personal belongings, parked in his dad's driveway with a note:

"I'll be in touch."

But he never contacted his family again. The 33-year-old vanished that day. His family thought he might have moved back to Europe or the Caribbean.

Greco was a wanderer. After getting a degree from the University of Wisconsin, he had traveled to France, where he became fluent in French and earned a master's degree at the University of Montpellier. He traveled extensively. When he came back to the states, he stayed at his dad's seasonal home in Port Richey for a bit before moving to Tampa, where he worked at the Tampa Cigar Co.

When Greco failed to show up again, his family members clung to the idea that he was still alive, just drifting. They never filed a missing person report.

But in June 2010, his younger brother, Michael Greco Jr., now in Wisconsin, wanted to know what had happened to his brother. He contacted NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System operated through the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency contacted the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Detective David Boyer interviewed the family and looked for leads.

He combed through 388 possible matches of unidentified bodies that had been discovered, and he found a good possibility:

On Aug. 8, 1987, a body had been found floating near the Clearwater Pass in the Gulf of Mexico. The man was tall and thin. He had two lighters, a tobacco pipe, a Seiko watch and aviator sunglasses. He had been in the water for about a week.

He had severe cuts to both wrists. The death was labeled a suicide.

He was not identified.

He became known as John Doe Sand Key and was buried along with other unidentified persons.

The body was exhumed, and DNA analysis confirmed the match a few weeks ago. When Boyer told the family members — including Greco's 90-year-old father — the news, they were angry at themselves for digging. It had been easier to believe that Greco was living somewhere far away.

But as the news settles, "more and more they are coming to the sense of closure," Boyer said.

He said the family never suspected depression and doesn't know why Greco killed himself.

"We believe that question will always remain unanswered," Boyer said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

.About Namus

Finding the missing

• NamUs — namus.gov — stands for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. It is a free online tool that is accessible to the public and geared toward families of missing loved ones, law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners and victim advocates. The site tries to connect these different groups of people to share information and find the missing.

• Since 2009, the site has cleared more than 200 cases.

• Nationwide, 4,400 unidentified remains are found every year, and more than 1,000 of these are still unidentified after one year. There may be up to 40,000 human remains that remain unidentified.

Source: NamUs

Decades later, a mystery ends in sadness for a Pasco family 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 9:32pm]

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