Officials have announced that remains found in a Palm Harbor, Florida, pond were those of a man who had been missing for almost 17 years.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Friday the remains found April 14 were those of Robert Helphrey, who was 34 when he was last seen, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
A volunteer group known as the Sunshine State Sonar search team found the car. The cause of Helphrey’s death remains under investigation.
Helphrey was last seen at a bar across the street from the restaurant where he had been the general manager.
Missing Pinellas man remains identified after car found in pond 16 years later https://t.co/5CztabWeI1
— Rose (@901Lulu) April 22, 2023
Brian St. Arnold, who owns the restaurant, said the news provides a type of closure, according to WTVT.
“At 6:18 this morning, the home phone rings, and no one ever calls the home phone anymore. My wife goes to the bathroom, answers the phone, and I hear her say, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe this.’ And I walk to her and say, ‘What has happened,’” he said.
“And they tell me, ‘We found Bob,’ and I said, ‘Well, dear God.’ After all these years, you know, we’re glad that we finally got some closure to what happened to that day,” St. Arnold said.
St. Arnold guessed that Helphrey took a wrong turn.
“It’s just amazing that nobody saw him that night. No one heard anything. He didn’t yell for help,” St. Arnold said.
“We’ll always mourn the death of Bob. He was a great guy and a loyal friend, but one of the things that does put to rest is all the conspiratorial theories of people saying, ‘Hey, we think this happened, or we think that happened,’” St. Arnold said
After working a shift at the Thirsty Marlin in Palm Harbor, Robert Helphrey met up with some coworkers and then left to drive home. He never made it. That was in 2006. His car was found at the bottom of a pond last week. https://t.co/OYxZC9u99T
— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) April 23, 2023
Ken Fleming with Recon Dive Recovery, which assisted in the effort, said finding the remains of a missing person is bittersweet.
“We always think what this does to the family, and we know that they’re now planning a funeral that they weren’t planning on. And so, we think about the impact that makes. We try to remain as respectful as possible,” Fleming said.
“There’s never closure, but there are answers.”
“When the family member comes up and gives you a hug, and it’s bittersweet, you know, they’re glad you’re there. They wish you weren’t,” Fleming said.
On its Facebook page, Sunshine State Sonar wrote, “Special thanks to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department and their amazing dive team. We would also like to thank PCSO Detective Ron Chalmers for his determination on this case. Undoubtably, this case would not have been solved without his involvement. This truly was a team effort!
“Our hearts are broken for Bob’s friends, and family. This has been an emotional 48 Hrs for everyone. We are praying for them.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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