EXCLUSIVE: New clues one year later in search for Darryl Fornatora
Friday marks one year since beloved Palm Beach County tennis pro Darryl Fornatora vanished under highly suspect circumstances during a surfing trip with a friend in the Dominican Republic.
For Darryl’s parents, Nancy and Gilbert Fornatora, the past year has been filled with many sleepless nights.
“My problem is the nightmares and not know what happened to him,” Nancy Fornatora said. “It leaves it open to the imagination and I’ve got a good imagination, so it scares me of what the possibilities are of what happened to him.”
Fornatora’s family is hopeful that a just completed analysis of Darryl’s laptop, GoPro, camera, as well as other documents and surveillance video obtained can help finally answer: What happened to Darryl Fornatora?
RELATED LINK: CBS12 Investigates: What is being done to find Darryl Fornatora?
The search itself has been plagued with changing theories from investigators, sudden appearance of evidence, and questions about what investigators are actually doing to move the case forward.
On January 25, 2016, Darryl and his friend Matt, who also lives in Palm Beach County, arrived in a coastal town called Cabarete in northern Dominican Republic. It was supposed to have been a weeklong surf vacation, but just days after arriving, Matt returned home early with various explanations as to why.
CBS12 has reached out to Matt and his attorney on multiple occasions, but none of our messages have been returned.
Investigators have not named any suspects, although there is a short list of potential persons of interest developed through the Fornatora’s private investigative efforts. Those efforts have also produced a series of emails that Matt sent to Darryl after he was last seen in the tiny island town.
“Something is wrong,” Gilbert Fornatora said. “It smells bad and I don’t know what the reason is.”
The Fornatora’s say they know someone knows something, but those with information aren’t coming forward, even with a $25,000 reward.
“Everybody is afraid to talk,” Gilbert Fornatora said. “They’re not allowed to put up posters. Posters go up, they’re torn right down.”
There is even evidence to suggest, the family says, that there could be possible corruption or local authorities somehow involved in helping to conceal what really happened.
As time continues to tick, they’re afraid the chance to find any closure will slip.
The Fornatora’s say they are not naïve about what the answers will eventual reveal, but they are hopeful that in answers they can find closure.
“One of the investigators told us unless you have proof one way or the other you have to have hope,” Nancy Fornatora said.
There remains a $25,000 reward for information in the case.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
MONDAY, JANUARY 25, 2016
Darryl Fornatora and Matt arrive to Cabarete, Dominican Republic, to begin week-long surfing vacation.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2016
After 5 hours of surfing, Darryl Fornatora texted his mother, Nancy, to let her know they finished surfing for the day. This is also the last time anyone in Darryl's family has heard from him.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016
Matt later told Darryl's parents that it was on this day (Wednesday) that he last saw Darryl at a surf shop in Cabarete. Matt also reportedly said Darryl began acting paranoid.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2016
Matt cut his trip short and travels back to the U.S. on the day after he would later tell the Fornatora's that he last saw Darryl. Matt traveled back to the U.S. with Darryl's surfboard and computer.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2016
Back home in Palm Beach County, Matt called Nancy and Gilbert Fornatora. He reportedly told them he had not seen nor heard from Darryl since January 27 at the surf shop.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 30, 2016
Matt returns to the Dominican Republic in an effort to search for Darryl. He also reportedly met with local investigators.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 31, 2016
Original day Darryl and Matt were scheduled to return home to Palm Beach County.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2016
Matt returns home to Palm Beach County for a second time with no further information on Darryl's whereabouts. In the days that followed several family members of Darryl's would travel to the Dominican Republic in hopes of developing new leads and to find Darryl. Nothing turned up. Neither did anything surface as scores of volunteers searched by sea and air in the areas where Darryl visited.
CBS12 Travels to the Dominican Republic to retrace Darryl's steps, talk with investigators, locals and other potential witnesses.
MARCH 17, 2016
As CBS12's Investigations are airing, six weeks after Darryl Fornatora disappeared, his wallet is suddenly found by a man who police describe as a junk diver.
The wallet was found with Darryl's Florida driver's license, credit cards and a large some of American currency. The cash itself includes what appears to be a bullet hole and burn marks. The discovery of Darryl's wallet has raised more questions about the circumstances leading up to the local tennis pro's disappearance and who may be involved.
MARCH 19, 2016
With the basis that Darryl's wallet had now resurfaced a group of local divers led by Dominican Republic CrimeStoppers organization began efforts to research a Bay Area that includes caves. The search was quickly suspended due to weather. Subsequent searches by professional divers, with the help off oceanographers, yelled no findings, leading the family to further cement their beliefs that Darryl's disappearance is not water-related.
Private search efforts continue to find out what happened to Darryl Fornatora. Investigators tell CBS12 their case is open but then begin to stop responding to inquiries. CBS12 continues to press for answers.
MAY 9, 2016
CBS12 reports that Darryl Fornatora's personal phone had been found in a rental car returned by his travel companion to the airport in Puerto Plata. The phone was reportedly found by an employee off the car rental company who then removed the phone's SIM card and gave to another employee. When Darryl's family became aware they were able to work with police to track down the phone. All of Darryl's information had been wiped and isn't believed to contain any of Darryl's personal information.
JUNE 27, 2016
Dominican investigators remain tight lipped about what they know, if anything, as Senator Marco Rubio pressures the U.S. Embassy to become more involved in the investigation.
JUNE 27, 2016
The Fornatora family tells CBS12 they are beginning to have Darryl’s recovered wallet and cellphone analyzed by a lab in the United States.
AUGUST 26, 2016
Well known private investigators, Beau Dietl and Associates, release their preliminary report into their own investigation into the disappearance of Darryl Fornatora, including a complete timeline and details of potential persons of interest.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2016
As the Fornatora family raises the reward for information to $25,000, CBS12 traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet separately with Senator Marco Rubio and members of Dominican Republic’s Embassy.
One year has passed since Darryl Fornatora vanished under highly suspect circumstances in the Dominican Republic.
CBS12 INVESTIGATES: The Disappearance of Darryl Fornatora: ALL STORIES