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Jeweler to give up shop after robbery

(ran ET edition of Tampa & State)

Three months after his mysterious kidnapping and robbery, longtime jeweler Lou Bader said Tuesday that he plans to close his business in the Cocoanut Grove shopping plaza.

Bader said he has been unable to recover from the robbery in which $300,000 in diamonds and other jewelry were taken. He said his insurance company, Lloyds of London, has not paid a claim for the lost merchandise and has not renewed his policy.

"No one could know what this has done to me emotionally unless they are living through it," Bader said. "I'm sitting here and watching my entire life go down the drain. I have no other means of a livelihood and have no idea what I'm going to be doing."

While the last few months have not been easy for him, he wants his final days in business to be positive and upbeat. On Tuesday, he posted going-out-business signs throughout his shop, Lou Bader Fine Jewelers on Fourth Street N.

He also issued a news release thanking his customers from the last 19 years and announcing tremendous savings on an "exquisite selection of brilliant diamond rings, stunning gemstones, lustrous pearls "

Bader has been a fixture in the local jewelry market, operating stores in St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg. He also has been a strong advocate for AIDS-related projects and perhaps is best known for helping found the Red Ribbon Ball and designing sterling-silver and red AIDS pins that have been given to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli and Princess Diana.

Bader said Tuesday that he is considering opening a small office to handle special orders, repairs and appraisals after his store has closed. But he said he mainly hopes to concentrate on his health and recovering from the devastating robbery that still causes him nightmares.

Chris Centofanti, the St. Pete Beach detective investigating the case, said leads have been few and far between. Investigators have said that Bader has declined to take a polygraph examination about the incident or be questioned without his lawyer present.

The case was remarkable from the start: Bader said a lone, masked gunman confronted him in the garage of his St. Pete Beach home, bound him with duct tape and forced him into the trunk of his Cadillac El Dorado.

Bader, 61, said the robber then drove the car to his store in St. Petersburg, stealing jewelry from the safe and a surveillance tape from a video recorder. He said the robber left him lying on his stomach in the restroom and drove the Cadillac back to St. Pete Beach, where the car was left in the parking lot of the Don Cesar Resort and Spa.

Bader's sister-in-law found the car the next day _ with Bader's pet schnauzer still inside.