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 email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.