While the leads poured in in the beginning of the investigation, they're only trickling in now, and Wendy struggles to figure it out.
I've had it explained to me that there are five reasons that people disappear. One is being kidnapped. The other is suicide. The third is a tragic accident. The fourth is opportunistic crime. And the fifth is just taking off.
Wendy says she's ruled out all of those.
That's reporter Laura Manitows with Wendy D'Ivore in a three part series she produced for a local ABC affiliate in Santa Barbara.
Gary DeVore had it all a successful career as a Hollywood screenwriter, a beautiful wife, his dream home, good friends. But everything changed the night of June 20, 797.
She was among the first reporters to show up at Wendy's house the day of Gary's disappearance.
There was a young reporter she was working for, ABC laura Evans. Manitose laura Evans, Key News laura became very, very helpful to me, but Laura went through everything, what I did. I was so overwhelmed by the press that I picked her. I rather designated her and said, here, you deal with her. She'll deal with me. You need somebody like that. And she was great.
Laura Manitos was working at Kyet in Santa Barbara when Gary disappeared, a place people associate with the Southern California good life. But Santa Barbara is a huge county, and it's also next to what some residents thought of as its wrong side of the tracks, its neighbor, Ventura County in the city of Ventura. And Laura, despite her youth, was already a seasoned crime reporter.
Ventura county has a terrible gang problem. So I covered the gangs a lot, and there is a gang issue in Santa Barbara as well. Ms 13. And so that was really the big issue. And then drugs I went on a lot of drug busts would helicopter into different valleys.
But through all these stories, she'd never developed the kind of human connection that she did with Wendy D'Ivore.
So we met her that first day, and then, because Gary had been missing for so long, I did check in with her on a regular basis, and I would check in to see how she was doing. I would check in when we felt there was need to update. We would check in on Anniversaries. It's been three months. It's been six months.
And then six months turned into a year. And of all the media who showed up in her life, laura Manitos was still there with Wendy, this hard nosed, ambitious young crime reporter plagued by the same, absolutely unanswered questions that everyone else had. In the second installment of her ABC special, laura delivers her stand up beside a white SUV staged to look like the one Gary was in when he vanished.
No body has been found. Gary's car, a Ford Explorer similar to this one, is still missing. There's been no activity on Gary's credit cards or his bank account. No use of his cell phone. There's no sign of foul play, so there are no suspects.
I'm prepared for them to call me and say that he's dead and that they have found his body. I am prepared in a much more remote way to never hear anything, never know anything and never see him again. And when I am able to move on, if that's the case, I will. I'm not able to yet. You know, hope is interesting. You don't give it up.
From campsite media and Sony music entertainment, you're listening to witnessed fade to black, episode four. Show me a body. I'm Josh Dean. One year after Gary vanished, nobody had found any signs of him or his car. There were no suspects and no signs of foul play. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Remember, Wendy had called Gary's former wife, Claudia Christian the day Gary disappeared. And Claudia used her contacts from the military to search the California aqueduct for Gary's SUV. And friends Phil combest and David debin went into the desert with the headband from Gary's cowboy hat, one smelly sneaker, and a bloodhound. When that didn't work, they also rented a small plane.
It was the airport in camarillo. And we flew low up highway 14 up until it's a long, long road in the desert. And we flew up and looked and we were looking for his white Ford explorer, and we couldn't find it. We just didn't see it.
And since Laura manitows had first shown up with a clutch of other reporters, the old news vans with the giant satellite dishes now lined the street outside Wendy and Gary's house. It was a major true crime story growing nationally, which in a sense was great for Wendy, who wanted no needed to keep attention on the case. The story of a vanished screenwriter, it was just so compelling. In the summer of 1997, screenwriter Gary devolves reported missing in the California desert.
For weeks, it was the top story.
In the nightly news, a series of clues. But then Gary's disappearance was blown out of the headlines by a different incident involving bad fate on a different highway. It was just before midnight when the car Diana was traveling in slewed into a pillar in this underpass in central Paris. Paparazzi had, in a sense, killed princess Diana and the world's media would swarm all over the story. It was also a Hollywood story because her lover dodi Fayed had produced a string of films and was a beloved figure to some in the industry. And it directly impacted Wendy's search because she lost an important ally. Gary's third wife Claudia, disappeared from Wendy's life in the search for Gary on August 30, 197, with the death of Dodie and Diana in their car crash. For Claudia, the loss of her ex husband Gary, then her lover doty, within two months, was nearly unbearable. The death of Diana initially drove Gary's story from the headlines, but wendy's search, led by authorities, had a bigger problem. Police had still found no signs of foul play. This was a phrase Wendy would hear in those initial weeks. And it was frustrating because clearly Gary's disappearance, the fact that he seemed to have just vanished from the face of the earth minutes after calling to report that everything was fine seemed to Wendy like a major indication of foul play.
The thing is, beyond that, detectives just hadn't found anything else. Authorities used receipts, phone logs and security cameras to trace Gary's movements some 300 miles into his drive. After leaving Santa Fe, police discovered security camera footage of Gary at a gas station mini mart in Flagstaff, Arizona. Here's private investigator Dennis O'Keefe in an E. News special about Gary's disappearance.
We know he left Flagstaff at a given time because he was videotaped by security cameras at the fuel at the gas station.
In the security camera footage, Gary, in a plaid shirt walks down the aisles of the mini mart scanning the beef jerky and bagged peanuts.
He also stopped again in Finner, California. When you go into a cell site, if your telephone is owned, whether you're using it or not, it will register.
Remember that second to last call Wendy received from Gary when he said he was going into Denny's and would call her right back? Based on the phone records, there's no question Gary stopped there. And police even found the waitress who served him a cup of coffee, black as. Gary liked it.
Now, the waitress remembered everything about him. He had his script with him that he had been writing. He talked to her about it. She was lovely. Apparently, I didn't speak with her, but the police did and the FBI did and everything.
But here's where it gets weird. That last call Gary made to Wendy at about 115, saying he was pumping pure adrenaline, it doesn't show up in any cell phone logs. There is a record of a last ping from Gary's cell phone in the desert near the freeway at 01:20 A.m., but no sign that he dialed Wendy from that phone. This was the first significant anomaly of the story. The other was a security camera in the Denny's parking lot that had been working fine except the night Gary stopped there.
The fucking camera in the back of the damn restaurant that he stopped at at that Denny's in the parking lot was broken. Had we been able to look and see if he was taken and in another car?
None of this added up to Wendy or Gary's friends. It just seemed fishy. Why was that camera broken at the Denny's on this of all nights? How was it that there was no cell phone record of Gary's last call but a last ping from his cell phone in the area? Wen and her friends developed what seemed like the most natural operative theory based on the facts they had.
When he called back, it was definitely a landline. So here's my thought. I think he came out, went to get in his car, bam. That's what I thought. And whoever's car he was in, whatever they did when he called me, it was a landline phone booth.
Probably in Wendy's logic, gary had been grabbed outside the Denny's and was on a landline being held by someone speaking in code when he said, I'm pumping pure adrenaline. Because it wasn't how Gary spoke to her unless he had some other motive. Like if his captors told him, call.
Her, get her off your back, we don't want her calling because I would have kept calling.
Beyond reconstructing Gary's movements up until he paid his bill and left that Denny's, the police found no other traces of him after that moment. Three agencies were searching for Gary the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, officials in Kern County, where the Denny's was located, and the California Highway Patrol, which was working with the California Department of Transportation. They controlled the aqueduct that crossed through the area. But beyond following Gary's credit card and travel records, the authorities didn't do much else in their hunt for answers. Most of the searches that they ended up conducting consisted of sending notices to other law enforcement agencies and not a lot came back. And so Wendy was more or less left on her own by authorities. And starting in late August that year, with the death of Princess Diana dominating the headlines, there was a danger of the whole Gary divorce story just going away and the world forgetting about him. But then came Michael Sands.
So I had found this. This was the publicist Michael Sands. And I don't know how much of any of this would be valuable. Like, take a look at this. And there's like God knows how many pages of all of this.
Wendy's showing us an over 20 page document, a massively elaborate media campaign documenting her every appearance on every news show in the first twelve months after Gary's disappearance. All of this curated by publicist Michael Sands. No one we interviewed seems to know where Michael Sands came from, not even Wendy.
Michael Sands was a publicist and he had been working for a long time. It might have been Mike Walker that introduced him to me, but I met him through someone. I mean, it's just a Hollywood connection.
Mike Walker was the head gossip columnist at the National Enquirer in the pre TMZ celebrity gossip guru who co wrote the New York Times bestselling book about the OJ. Simpson trial. He died in 2018, but was a close friend of Wendy's. If Michael Sands did come through Mike Walker, it would have made sense.
Michael Sands came in immediately and took over all of the, I want to call it PR. Okay? So that I would not have to be faced with all of these. I mean, the press was at my front door. It was unbelievable. Pressure to have that at the same time as having this person missing and trying to get information. It was just a confusing and very difficult time for me.
And, well, because it was also Hollywood, michael Sands would find a role for himself too as the public face of the search for Gary DeVore. Here he is in the enew special.
Hundred thousand dollars reward we are offering. You might think someone would be motivated to come forward, but zero. No leads. Nothing.
By all appearances, Michael Sands was what in the 90s people called a bottom feeder in the publicity industry. Sands was a former fashion model. He posed for playgirl. Then he became a celebrity publicist whose most well known client was Kevin Federline, the main squeeze, then ex husband to Britney Spears and father to their two boys. But while in the mix of the tabloid industry, michael Sands was introducing himself to some people as a media consultant for the Pentagon and the FBI. Wendy didn't know any of this when she met him, though there were signs early on that he was different.
He took me to lunch at the time Gary was missing. We were up at the top of Beverly Glen and we were eating outside. And in the middle of lunch a call came through and he had to take it. He had gone out to his car. He was sitting in his car and he came back in and I said, what are you doing? And he looked at me and he said, I have another life. I have also worked with highly classified people inside the intelligence community for many, many years.
You at any other time in her life, a stranger appearing out of nowhere and hinting he had ties with the intelligence community would have set off alarms. But Wendy was already in deep with her previous visit from Chase Brandon. The fact that Michael Sands was helping her and claimed experience with the CIA seemed a plus. And Michael Sands was tireless. Remember the reward poster that Gary's friends made for him that first day? Well, Michael Sands revised it when Wendy increased the reward offer to $100,000 for information leading to Gary's whereabouts. It was his idea to revise it in the style of an Old West wanted poster. He then went with private investigator Don Crutchfield to gas stations and truck stops along the route Gary had taken, posting the notice and at times interviewing people. Soon their efforts gathered leads, as recounted in Crutchfield's 2015 book, The Case of the Missing Screenwriter. Crutchfield is one of several investigators who searched for Gary and who we'll learn more about later. But in the book, he starts with one witness in Banning, California, who claims to have seen Gary DeVore in a tobacco shop playing batgamon with the owner.
The subject talks to him about screenwriting in the movie industry. He saw a white Explorer in the parking lot and this one informants stated.
She had seen a transient type person in Riverside that resembled the photograph of Gary D'Ivore. She was unable to confirm the finger deformity. She saw him carrying a water bottle. And he seemed too alert for a.
Normal street person or this subject. Found in a report that he saw an overturned, burnt out SUV in the desert northeast of California City, south of Ramsburg. He couldn't positively idea it as a Ford Explorer. And yet, as helpful as Michael Sands was, there were also those huge red flags about him, like the weird call at lunch with Wendy on the top of Beverly Glen. I really liked Michael Sands, and I don't want to be unkind, but he seemed like quite an unprofessional publicist, and he was always talking about such he.
Was living in this world of shadows.
He was living in a PR world, and he was connected with the Department.
Of Defense and other national security organizations.
That's British author and filmmaker Matthew Alford, who got to know Michael Sands when he was working on his 2017 documentary about Gary DeVore, the writer with no Hands. And here's the thing about Michael Sands. In those first months when he was helping Wendy, he was a little eccentric, but he was seemingly driven to get Gary's name in the news and keep it there. He was so good that possibly it's why Wendy missed a major red flag. It was an interview that Michael Sands did without her in a small Northern California paper, the Modesto B. Here's a section from that June 1998 article. The reporter is talking about Michael Sands. His publicist thinks DeVore engineered his own disappearance with help from the CIA in an attempt to become the main character in his script for The Big Steal. It was an absurd premise to be pitching. Leaving aside that no writer would probably ever stage a publicity stunt for a film because nobody cares about writers that much. It would be insane to fake one's own disappearance for a film that doesn't even have a final script yet. The question was, how or why did a publicist with an obsession for the CIA show up in Wendy's life days after Gary's disappearance and following the mysterious arrival of CIA officer Chase Brandon?
And why was this publicist pitching absurd, misleading stories to the media about Gary faking his own disappearance? It seemed that with every step Wendy took in her search for Gary, she went further from getting any real help from authorities and deeper into this web of something related to the CIA.
Have you ever seriously pissed off your in laws? A couple of years ago, I started investigating a murder in my wife's family. Why would I do something so stupid? Well, partly because I've come to suspect that the woman who was killed is haunting the house I grew up in.
There was a weight in the beard, like somebody was in it. I woke up because my bed was.
Shaking so it would be like shake.
Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.
But mainly because I think someone in the family might have got away with murder. And my in laws, well, they're not exactly thrilled about it.
You are deconstructing an age old story.
We're going to be more traumatized by.
This podcast than we were about the murder. I'll tell you that.
There is going to be blowback.
I'm Tristan Redmond, and from Wandery and Pineapple Street Studios, this is Ghost Story, a podcast about the things that come back to haunt us. Follow Ghost Story on the Wandery app or wherever you get your podcasts. You can binge all episodes of Ghost Story ad free right now by joining Wandery.
Have you ever thought about whose job it is to pursue fugitives, hunt child, abductors, or recover human remains? I'm investigative journalist Delia Diambra, and on my show, Dark Arenas, you'll hear first hand accounts from those who have chosen careers that enter some of the most dangerous spaces, the impacts of these jobs, and most importantly, why people stick with them day after day. Listen to Dark Arenas now, wherever you listen to podcasts.
Since the beginning of Wendy's nightmare, former Reagan official Frank Thorwald had been there for her at each step. Remember, Frank was sent by Gary's mentor, director John Irvin, to be a sort of protector to Wendy. And as the search for Gary continued, frank made himself available to analyze the curveballs that kept coming Wendy's way, like Chase Brandon, for instance.
I'm going to qualify this by not saying Chase did anything whatsoever, but if you've got experience in law enforcement or intelligence or if you have experience in crime, all those kinds of things would make sense in what you have to influence.
That's the way Frank Thorwald speaks in circles ellipses hypotheticals. He's traveled in the world of national security, where that's just how people communicate. He's also a throat cancer survivor and keeps a can of Coca Cola nearby to sip through a straw and wet his throat. He continues, you have to find out.
To all of that kind of stuff is typical playbook in my mind that people would have experience in those kinds of things. You wouldn't be any good if you didn't.
He's talking about CIA officer Chase Brandon, but again, he's also circling hypothetically about what kind of person may have had the experience to disappear Gary. That day, after Chase Brandon's visit, when Wendy found Gary's desktop computer apparently ransacked, she'd phoned Frank Thorwald. She told him about Chase's faux consoling, the crocodile tears. The fact that he'd closed himself off.
In Gary's office even after 25 years, it seems strange. Why would somebody act that way? And that's always been an unanswered question for me.
Whatever his personal opinions, frank believed he could form a constructive relationship with Chase, given their shared backgrounds. But when he reached out to him.
I had called Chase to see if there were some things that could be done, because he has a unique position. Most of my clearances had passed at that point, but he had the ability to do contacts to find out what was going on. And he certainly blew me off. I mean, he sends me to a pornographic website.
At this point in the interview, sitting in Frank Thorwald's modest Phoenix ranch house with his beloved parrot Max in the next room, there's a look of complete disgust on Thorwald's face just at having to say the word pornographic. Thorwald's closest friend in the Reagan administration was Attorney General Ed Meese. To some people, Meese is famous for having been with President Reagan in the hospital after he was shot. But to others, he's even more famous or infamous as an anti pornography crusader, and he remains Thorwald's best friend to this day. The CIA has a justifiable reputation for being nasty, and Thorwald interpreted Chase Brandon's action in the most negative way, and.
I take it as an fu kind of thing instead of trying to figure out what's going on. And to me, if you've got a friend, you want to know what's going on, especially under such unusual circumstances. And then later on, he just never was really involved in anything that was going on, and that always troubled me.
The reason it was shocking to him that Chase Brandon was being so evasive was that Chase Brandon had already begun his public role for the Agency, serving as its liaison with Hollywood. Chase had permission to tell the world he was with the CIA. In fact, it was his job. He was supposed to make friends with writers like Gary. There was no reason for Brandon to be evasive or to allegedly steal scripts from Gary's computer. At this time in his career, Brandon was a CIA officer whose job was to publicly represent the Agency. Why was he behaving so furtively like a person in a bad movie with guilty knowledge of something? In those early days of Gary's disappearance, when Wendy jumped into this other reality of Gary's that he might have been involved with the CIA, speculation quickly led to a common hack plot of Hollywood films that Gary was killed or abducted by the CIA. Like many citizens, I fear the extraordinary powers of secrecy and breaking that have been coded into the CIA's existence. It's an institution that exists to break laws in other countries, we hope, not our own. In fact, the CIA is forbidden by law from even operating inside of the United States.
And yet, for all those legitimate fears people have, to those who cover it, the CIA doesn't seem like an institution that goes out and kills Americans in America. That's the plot of a bad movie. As a journalist, you know, there are a million reasons why, the first being that actual nefarious conspiracies never seem to work all that well. Someone usually blabs, but there's another reason. Despite fictitious spies like James Bond and his license to kill and the many lethal military programs the CIA has toyed with in its history and classic tradecraft, if spies kill, it's usually a massive failure. If you're a bad guy, the CIA generally doesn't want to kill you. They want to recruit you. From the start, Frank Thorwald did not believe Chase or the CIA as an institution was likely to have killed Gary.
In my mind, it's not something CIA would even worry about. You just can't go kill somebody. That would have to literally go all the way up to the President of the United States to get something like that to happen. It's just not something that some individual can make happen. There would be severe consequences for that, especially a citizen in the United States.
And yet Wendy and Frank both thought Chase behaved like a person with a hidden agenda or guilty knowledge of something. And this was before he pitched alternate theories of Gary's death to the La times. Why was he behaving like this? Frank Thorwald has a theory.
Now people have talked about organized crime or other kinds of groups, narco, drug lords, that kind of thing.
What Frank is saying goes back to Gary's script. His adaptation of the big steel. Did Gary receive information about CIA or rogue CIA activities in Panama from Chase Brandon that may have pissed someone off? A third party, perhaps a more dangerous party who was involved with the CIA there.
I mean, this was in the time of Noriega when he was running Panama, and of course, he was one of those people can your imagination can go wild on these kinds of things. Gary may have been discovered that there are some kinds of monies moving from here to there in the cartels or with Noriego, and they didn't want to get caught. You can come up with a lot of scenarios as creative as you want to be, but do they all really fit? I'm saying that it could be a drug lord. It could be somebody tied to some kind of organization. Maybe the CIA, maybe he is in protective custody. I am not omnipotent. I cannot see through the clouds and.
Figure out this kind of stuff. Theory here is that Chase introduced Gary to bad guys, panamanians or former CIA officers who became afraid of what Gary was going to reveal in his script and that they abducted him on his way home. It's a theory that in many ways stands up, especially given the lack of evidence of a crash or any signs of Gary's car. And to those like Chase Brandon, who told the La times gary might have been carjacked, there was a massive police presence on the highways because of the upcoming Tyson Holofield fight in Vegas that weekend. Frank Thorwald's theory that Chase's suspicious behavior was a result of him having guilty knowledge, that he'd potentially introduced Gary to someone or people who'd brought him harm seems plausible in this theory. Chase isn't himself guilty of anything. He just made a mistake by introducing Gary to the wrong bad guy as a source for his script. But given that Chase had just begun his job as the CIA's official liaison to Hollywood, it probably wouldn't have looked good to lose a writer so early on. It's possible Chase was so invested in Gary's script and what had happened to him simply because he wanted to get to the bottom of what had happened like everybody else.
Or it is possible Chase Brandon was just some kind of rogue CIA dirtbag, I guess. After that first visit with the weird computer incident, wendy says she didn't hear from chase Brandon again for months. Frank Thorwald hadn't told Wendy about the incident with the porn site. And at this point, she still hoped in some way that Brandon, with his ties to the CIA, could help solve the mystery. But when he finally called back, it wasn't to help.
I mean, when he said to me, I'm inviting you to come to Washington, DC. For the 50th anniversary of whatever the hell it was, the CIA, the FBA. And I said, I'm sorry, but I'd.
Love to go, wendy was trying to politely decline. How do you tell a CIA officer no without hurting feelings or her greater cause? A chase would not give up.
He said, you'll meet president Bush, you'll meet his father, you'll meet all these people. It'll be very interesting. And I said, I would love to go, but I really don't have a place to stay there. And he said, oh, well, you can stay with me. And I said, is that an open invitation or a hit? I mean, literally. I said that because I knew. I mean, you just you put yourself in that position or you don't.
I wasn't going to, but Chase still kept pushing.
Well, when he said I could stay with him at his house, and I said I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that, he knew that that said no.
Was this a CIA seduction attempt using the lure of a patriotic ceremony with an ex president as a prelude to something more? It's a story that Wendy can laugh at today, but in that moment when this man from the CIA who purported to be Gary's friend, when he hit on her, she was shattered. To her, it seemed to say that Chase knew Gary was dead.
I believed that when Chase contacted me and said, do you want to come? It made me feel that he thought probably we were not going to find him. It also could have meant that he already knew that Gary was gone and not coming back. Regardless of who Gary now was, where Gary now was, or what was happening, that there was confidence in this person's mind that I was going to be on my own.
This was an emotionally fraught time. Everything. That happened to Wendy was highly charged. Her best friend, Rebecca Holden, remembers the arrival of a mysterious package around then that set off a panic.
A couple of weeks after Gary had disappeared, wendy gets a package just delivered. She's thinking, what's in it? Well, it was a vase.
Okay. Wendy was so concerned, she had the police come to open it.
The police were at my home so frequently, almost daily at this point. And when that arrived, it just seemed the timing was very OD. The size of the package scared the hell out of me, and I was just afraid to go forward without proper protection and cooperation.
But it turned out when Gary was in Santa Fe, he'd bought Wendy a present, a pair of matching vases.
Apparently, he had bought two of them matching, but they only had one in stock, so the other one was shipped. The one that was in stock, he had brought home with him.
This almost felt, after all the other surprises, that now Gary was himself somehow taunting her with the arrival of this gift. And now, with the end of June 1998 approaching and the anniversary of Gary's disappearance, wendy was tired of people saying he might be dead. That La times article in which Chase Brandon had suggested Gary might have been carjacked and knocked on the head and was just gone, this had infuriated her. As Rebecca remembers, this is when Wendy kicked into high gear during her media interviews.
One morning we did CBS This Morning.
The Today Show on NBC and Good Morning America.
All in one morning.
We did Burden of Proof, but it was that one question that Wendy was hit with in these interviews that pushed her over the edge.
Every time I went on the news, they kept telling me, maybe Gary's just dead. And I finally cracked and said, if my husband is dead, then show me a body.
I'm Morocca, and I'm excited to announce season four of my podcast, Mobituaries. I've got a whole new bunch of stories to share with you about the most fascinating people and things who are no longer with us, from famous figures who died on the very same day to the things I wish would die, like Buffets. All that and much more. Listen to Mobituaries with Morocca, wherever you get your podcasts.
Southern California was being beat to death with fires.
This is a story about a firebug, the most prolific arsonist of the 20th century. Did a master fire starter become an amateur writer? Used the fires as the basis for a novel, and eventually a murderer or two?
This guy's not going to stop. Firebugs don't stop.
I'm Carrie Antholis, host of the new podcast Firebug, available now on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
It was about 1030 in the morning in Wendy and Gary's house on July 8, one year and ten days since Gary's disappearance, and Wendy DeVore got one of the most consequential phone calls of her life. She's not even sure who it was now, because everything after was a blur.
Someone called and said, turn on the news, and I do not remember who it was. I easily got, oh, 50 phone calls in an hour after that. I mean, because everyone that happened to be watching the news was going, oh, my mean, I got a lot of phone calls.
This, though, this was the call Wendy had been waiting for and dreading, because, honestly, no one should ever get this call. Wendy's best friend, Rebecca Holden, who was there, remembers the moment vividly, seeing the sight of Gary's car on the TV.
The car was in the aqueduct. We were sitting there watching it on TV. They were pulling things out of the car and putting them on the bank.
It was all over the local news.
There has been a major break in the year long mystery of missing Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore.
They found him beneath 15ft of muddy water at the bottom of the California Aqueduct.
It hadn't even been two weeks since Wendy had gone off script in her media interviews and announced that if people were going to say that Gary was dead, she wanted to see a body. It was a perfect day on the beach, as always, and the doors and windows were open as Wendy sat with Rebecca staring at the big screen TV, the same big screen TV she was supposed to watch the Tyson fight on the night Gary never came home. Now Wendy was watching a scene 120 miles away where the four lane highway 14 bends slightly crosses over the California Aqueduct. The concrete roadway was crowded with rescue vehicles, news vans, and state troopers who'd closed the entire highway in both directions. DeVore lost controller while on the 14.
Freeway and apparently flipped over the guardrail.
Landing in the aqueduct below.
The police concluded that he died.
It would reach almost 100 degrees in the desert that day, so hot that Wendy could actually see the heat waves rising up behind reporters doing standups on the TV. All cameras were focused on the vertical arm of a massive steel construction crane that the California Department of Transportation had backed up to the aqueduct to pull a white Ford Explorer from the water. But that's not what Wendy and Rebecca fixated on.
They were pulling things out of the car and putting them on the bank on TV, as we were sitting there.
On the boy, are you right? It's when they pulled out that vase.
Remember that vase that Gary had apparently bought for Wendy and mailed to the house, which just showed up in the mail one day and really freaked her out?
The one that was delivered later was sitting on the coffee table when they pulled the one out of the car and put it on the bank, and it matched the one that was sitting right in front of us we knew this was Gary's stuff. I mean, that's when we went, okay, that's it.
The recovery scene in the desert was, of course, a complete media goat. Rodeo news crews from all over Southern California descended upon the aqueduct, feeling a new round of tabloid fever, and reporter Laura Manitos was at the center of it.
I was there when they pulled the car out. I was the first person to know that that car was his.
Laura is describing the moment the scratched, dented white rooftop of the Ford Explorer became visible, cresting up from the water surface as it was pulled by a cable winch on the crane. There was no body visible yet in the vehicle, nor any certainty right away that this white Ford Explorer was Gary's. But Laura knew it was the one. She'd been in Wendy's house, seen the vase. Gary had mailed from Santa Fe sitting on Wendy's coffee table. And now when we were on the.
Side of the aqueduct and the divers were down under the water looking for his car, up popped the matching vase. And I was the first to see.
And that was the first thing to come up. And I knew it was him.
Standing in the 105 degree heat, looking down into the water below amid the rescue divers and orange buoys floating on the surface, she saw it.
It was beautiful. And it was very clearly the matching vase to Wendy's. And it came up, and I was like, oh, my God, it's him. That's Gary's car. And I called Wendy. The sheriff's department had no clue. Nobody knew about the vase.
Laura's final comment speaks volumes about the competence of the police investigating this, a subject we'll explore a bit more later on. But in that moment on the highway, amid all the cops and reporters, laura had the scoop. She knew they had Gary's truck. But instead of announcing it, she decided to tell Wendy before anyone else.
I called Wendy, and I said, oh, my God, Wendy, it's him. And she said, oh, my God. Don't look inside of the car when they bring it up. Don't look inside.
But Wendy already knew, because she was seeing the same vase on her TV.
At that point, she was concerned about me seeing what I was about to oh, my God. Oh, my God. She was so sad, so just distraught. Oh, my God, Laura. I mean, she almost treated me like a daughter at that point. Oh, my God, Laura, don't look.
Don't look. But Laura was still a journalist.
And then I went over and I told the sheriff who was there, and I said, that's Gary. I said, you found him. That's the vase.
Within minutes, they had pulled the white Ford Explorer onto the western embankment. The harsh midday sun in the desert made it impossible to look into the shattered wet glass of the windshield to see what was inside. For a moment, all these cops and deputies just stood there as if they weren't sure what to do.
Know it was the white Ford explorer. It was just dirty and it know, crap kind of coming off the side of it and it's just dirty.
Laura Manitos was the first reporter to approach the vehicle.
I remember seeing skeleton and I don't remember seeing clothes. I don't remember seeing flesh, just skeleton.
The corpse was safety belted into the front seat. It was covered in muck and pieces of white mylar plastic from the front airbags, which had deployed it's worth noting that Gary's SUV was found beneath about 15ft of water at a spot in the California aqueduct where it passes directly beneath the 14 freeway. The aqueduct ferries critical water all the way from northern California. Here it's 100 foot wide concrete line river. If you were driving over it today on the freeway, you wouldn't even notice it because the freeway bridge doesn't rise over it. It's flat in the desert, so it barely even registers as a bridge. And it was exactly the same way when Gary was found. There are a million reasons why it strikes many people as impossible that Gary's truck was discovered here at this spot, starting with the fact that this is the exact portion of the aqueduct that Gary's ex wife Claudia Christian claimed to have searched with the help of military contacts. And there was apparently no trace of a vehicle in the aqueduct. How could one just suddenly appear there now? But no one was asking these questions in that moment.
To everyone at the scene on the highway, this felt like closure to one of America's most baffling mysteries. And to Wendy and Rebecca watching at home, it seemed that way too. At first.
The body didn't come up for a long time.
I watched it.
We watched it on TV together. Yeah, we thought it was Gary, but.
I wanted to be sure it was him.
Next time on Fade to black if.
It had actually been him, if he had actually been dead, then you bury him and you go on with your life, okay? Whatever your life is. But when you start to find out that that body isn't the one, I mean, weird things start to happen that scare the living hell out of you.
Dear Santa, I need you to get.
Our streets onto air giggly bits before I go mad.
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Witnessed. Fade to black is a production of Campsite media and Sony music entertainment in association with stowaway entertainment. The series was co created, written and reported by Evan Wright and Megan Donnis. Megan Donnis is the senior producer and Shiba Joseph is the associate producer. The executive producers are Evan Wright, Jeff Singer and me, Josh Dean. Niall Casson is the consulting producer. Studio recording by Ewan Leitremuan, Blake Rook and Shiba Joseph. Sound design, mixing and original music by Mark McAdam and Erica Huang. Additional engineering by Blake Rook. Additional music by APM and Blue dot session. Additional field recording by Devin Schwartz. Fact checking by Amanda Feynman. Special thanks to The Voice actors in this episode joe Hawthorne, Lindsay Kilbride, david Eichler and Devin Schwartz and our operations team doug Slaywin, Destiny Dingell, Ashley Warren and Sabina Mara. The executive producers at Campsite Media are vanessa Gregoriatis, adam Hoff, Matt Cher and me, Josh Dean. If you like the show, please take a minute to rate and review it, which really does help other people find it. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.
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