Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa father pleads for public's help with son's disappearance

TAMPA — At 4:06 p.m. Monday, he texted his father.

I love you guys. I'm on my way home.

But 16-year-old William Dean Damon never made it to his Tampa house.

Authorities have scoured possible paths from Winter Park, where he had been visiting a friend. They tried tracing his phone, but it's off. They've interviewed friends and checked his computer's search history.

And on Wednesday, the boy's father, Scott Damon, sat in front of news cameras. He swallowed hard, willing himself not to cry.

"We're just worried," he said. "We don't know what's going on."

To those who don't know him, Dean's disappearance had the markings of a runaway case: A 16-year-old who had just moved from Winter Park to Tampa went back to visit his friends and girlfriend. He had $160 and a vehicle.

But Tampa police say Dean's friends have no idea where he could be now. Neither does his girlfriend. They've posted messages on Facebook, begging him to come home.

It appears Dean intended to return. He told his father he'd leave at 4 p.m. so he could make it back by nightfall. A friend saw him pull out of the driveway.

The cellphone, for whatever reason, went dead quickly, police say. Tracing placed him just blocks from the house.

His family is trying not to think of the worst.

"There are various degrees of horrible," Scott Damon said.

Police have had to tell Damon to stop searching, to stay home with his two daughters, ages 11 and 14, who are very upset.

The family plans to have some semblance of a Thanksgiving meal, at least for the girls.

Authorities from Winter Park, Volusia County, Tampa and the Florida Highway Patrol are working the case. A representative from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children flew in Wednesday to help.

They're asking for tips from anyone who may have seen Dean or the navy blue 2007 Nissan Xterra he was driving, which has a tag number 457XXG.

Dean moved from Winter Park with his family several months ago because his dad, an attorney, got a job at a Tampa law firm.

The teen seemed to be adjusting well, his father said. Dean had made new friends at Plant High School and went to wrestling practice nearly every day.

Teachers said he is funny, outgoing and energetic.

The "I love you" text was not unusual, Damon said. Dean was affectionate, especially when he was out of town.

"He's a fantastic kid," his father said.

Police say their work immediately after a disappearance is very important. As time passes, the scope of their search increases, and Dean's resources likely decrease.

He left with cash carefully budgeted for gas, fast food, and trips to the zoo and movie theater. Friends say he did all those things.

He doesn't have a credit card, his father says.

Dean's disappearance is unusual in that it was so abrupt, said police Sgt. Bill Todd.

Dean has never run away in the past. He had communicated with his parents all weekend. Friends said he acted normally.

And this was the boy's third trip back to Winter Park. He had returned promptly the previous times, his father said.

"We don't have any idea where he is," his father said, asking for the public's help. "Contact the Tampa Police Department so we can bring him home as quickly as possible."

• • •

Another teenager who disappeared in an unrelated case this week was located Wednesday.

Nicholas Hubbard-Wright, 15, who ran off Monday, was found safe in front of Scores, a N Dale Mabry Highway club. Hubbard-Wright, who is mentally disabled, is new to the area and has a history of wandering away, typically going to libraries or stores.

He disappeared while his family was at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. Hubbard-Wright jumped from a parked car and took off running, said his mother, Lessie Donaldson.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.


Authorities are asking for the public's help in their search for 16-year-old William Dean Damon, who was last seen in Winter Park driving a navy blue 2007 Nisson Xterra with tag number 457XXG. Tampa police can be reached at (813) 231-6130.

Tampa father pleads for public's help with son's disappearance 11/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921
  2. Long day of diplomacy: Tillerson visits Afghanistan, Iraq


    BAGHDAD — Far from the Washington murmurs about his future, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to two of America's enduring war zones Monday, prodding leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq to reach out to longtime rivals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, speaks Monday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, accompanied by Gen. John Nicholson, left, and Special Charge d’Affaires Amb. Hugo Llorens.
  3. Head-on crash kills Wesley Chapel teacher and Zephyrhills man


    TAMPA — Two men, including a high school math teacher, were killed Monday in a head-on crash on Morris Bridge Road, deputies said.

  4. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers


    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.
  5. Editorial: Trump owes apology to fallen soldier's Miami family


    There is no more sacred, solemn role for a president than to comfort grieving family members of soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. Those calls cannot be easy, and some presidents are better at it than others. Yet President Donald Trump and his administration continue to engage in a …