Bones in woods might be remains of missing man with Alzheimer's
By JAMIE MALERNEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 21, 2000
BROOKSVILLE -- Police are investigating whether skeletal remains discovered Monday in some woods are those of a missing Alzheimer's patient feared dead since he disappeared nearly four months ago.
Along with the remains, which were found by a construction worker near U.S. 41 and Barnett Road, police found similar clothing that William Mott Fleer, 78, was last seen in, said Sgt. Ron Woods, a detective with the Brooksville Police Department. But officials say they cannot yet positively identify the remains.
"The clothing matches the clothing he was last seen in," Woods said. "But at this time it is still under investigation, . . . and it is still undetermined."
Police say the remains show no obvious signs of foul play.
Fleer has been missing since the afternoon of July 30, when he left his Brooksville home for a walk. On several prior occasions, Fleer had become disoriented on such walks and would have police or community members help him home.
This time, the World War II veteran came home from church, changed clothes and went out despite protests from his adult son. The son decided to give his father 30 minutes to return -- the amount of time it normally took for his father to walk around the block.
A half-hour passed and Fleer didn't return, said his wife, Edith. So the son and wife went looking. After finding nothing, they called the police, who began questioning neighbors and knocking on doors. They also issued a bulletin with Fleer's description.
But it wasn't until two days later that a massive search was called. On Aug. 2, Police Chief Ed Tincher instructed his officers to comb through some woods near where Fleer was last seen. Tincher said he did not call his officers out earlier because his staff never told him that Fleer had Alzheimer's.
Search dogs from Hillsborough County also were brought up in hopes that they could find Fleer's scent. Again, no luck.
Mrs. Fleer said Monday that until police can tell her unequivocally that the body found is her husband's, she is going to hold out hope for his safe return. She said she hopes someone found her husband and gave him a ride to a shelter.
"Until everything is settled definitely, I'd like to think he'll return home. We've been together 53 years," she said. "They said they found a body. But they still have to do tests. They have to prove to me it's him."
Woods said that police have no other known missing persons who match the description of the remains, which were discovered behind the Brooksville Publix, 200 yards into the woods.
Fleer was last seen July 30 at 2:30 p.m. near VFW Road and Rosewood Street in Brooksville. He was wearing either a white T-shirt or a light brown checkered shirt with black shorts and black shoes. He is white, about 5-feet-10, weighs 125 pounds and has a slight limp. Anyone with information may call the Brooksville Police Department at 754-6800.
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