Tim Chipley's friends planned a candlelight vigil for Friday night at the pub where he was last seen.
Instead, many of them ended up at a nearby apartment complex, where a body was pulled from a pond about 90 minutes before the vigil began.
Chipley was last seen at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday at O'Brien's Irish Pub on N Dale Mabry Highway.
About a mile from the bar, Todd Dahlke watched as sheriff's deputies and a dive team searched for evidence. After speaking with detectives, he leaned on the trunk of a sheriff's car and cried.
"It was him," said Todd Dahlke, who worked with Chipley at Nuccio Air Conditioning. "I got it confirmed."
Officials said late Friday they had not yet identified the victim or notified relatives.
Sheriff's Maj. Harold Winsett would not comment on a cause of death or how long the body may have been there.
Chipley was wearing a blue and white shirt, jeans and boots when he disappeared, Dahlke said. He and some friends had canvassed the area earlier in the week, looking in wooded areas and ponds.
Three boys sitting near the pond saw the body after a driver pulled up just before 5 p.m. Friday, pointed at the water and said "dead body" in Spanish.
The boys walked to the shore and saw a bald man with a blue and white shirt, said Luciano Massari, 15. He gave his phone to a friend, who called 911.
Some of Chipley's friends from Tampa and Winter Haven, where he previously lived, were joined at the apartment complex by his boss. Others carried on with the vigil at O'Brien's. Chipley, who played shortstop in college, loved saltwater fishing and the Bucs, friends said. And he enjoyed drinking.
Chipley, 34, was packed and ready for a trip to Thailand for Muay Thai kickboxing training Wednesday, but he never made it to the airport.
He lived with Ben Lewis, 41, of Winter Haven, about three years ago. They last talked several weeks ago as Chipley drove back from a visit with his parents in Georgia.
"He was a real sweet guy," he said. "He was not a fighter."
Shane Naumann, 36, of Winter Haven had been friends with Chipley for six years.
"We heard his friends left him that night. We never left him at a bar. He was too trusting. Too naive," Naumann said.
Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3321.