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September 12, 2012

The Mystery Of The Vanished Vacationer



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Religious. A Scoutmaster. A family man. George Richardson is by all accounts an intelligent, dependable man with a high profile job, a loving wife, and friends and co-workers who sing his praises.

But sometime between 1 AM and 6 AM on August 28 George Richardson vanished from a Montauk motel where he was vacationing with his wife Mary and three young children, all boys. And he literally vanished without a trace.

"We've had dogs out, planes. Everything has been checked," said East Hampton Town Police Chief Eddie Ecker. "We're hoping he is somewhere."

Hartman's Briney Breezes Motel is on Old Montauk Highway, across the street from the ocean beach, separated by dense brush and thicket. There are intermittent paths that lead down to the beach. One is just across the street and east of the motel and police believe it is most likely the one Richardson used when he went for beach walks.

The family was in the last day of its vacation, and Richardson had gone for early walks on the beach most of the other days. He was due back at work at Huntington Hospital the following day.

Police said his eldest son saw Richardson at 1 AM. His wife woke up to find him gone around 6 AM. "They were all in one room," noted Detective Lieutenant Chris Anderson. Richardson was wearing running shoes and an orange cap. There are no security cameras on site, an employee said. The doors lock with a key, not electronically.

Richardson's credit cards have not been used and his bank account hasn't been touched, police said.

"There's a distinct possibility he went swimming," Anderson guessed, though friends said Richardson wasn't a swimming enthusiast.

Ecker acknowledged, "there are no indications" Richardson went down to the nearby beach on that particular morning. "Who knows if he turns left and a car clips him?" said Anderson.

"We are all shaking," said Rob Harrison, an assistant dean at the St. John's School of Law where Richardson worked for almost five years. "He was a great guy in every way; straight laced, dependable. This is a tragedy for us."

Harrison said Richardson was an avid boater but had sold his sailboat the previous year. "He did have a boat. We had that in common." Harrison said Richardson kept his boat in Huntington. "He sold it – he didn't use it as much as he would have liked," Harrison said.

Anderson said police were aware that the missing man "has had boats registered to him in the past."

Richardson left St. John's at the end of last year and went to work at Huntington Hospital, where he was Vice President of Development. Hospital spokesperson Julie Robinson-Tingue said Richardson "oversaw all the fundraising and community relations." He was upwardly mobile, she noted from his resume. When he left St. John's his title was as Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations.

Before St. John's he worked at Hofstra University, where he earned an MBA after graduation from Fairfield. Robinson-Tingue said the family did not wish to comment. She said Richardson "was in good shape, active an outdoorsy type. This is extremely bizarre, baffling, and upsetting."

The Briney Breezes is just a few blocks west of 7-Eleven. "The detectives came here," a man identified as the manager said. "They checked the video – every day, 24 hours. They had pictures of Richardson and his family. They found nothing. They were never here." There is a picture of Richardson posted at John's Drive-In, and no one saw him there, either. A manager of the IGA had no knowledge of the matter. "During the summer there's millions of people in here with kids. The place is packed." She said there is a security tape, but police haven't checked it.

Mike Quane worked with Richardson during the nineties and has stayed in touch with him. "He's a really great guy." He said Richardson wasn't a drinker, womanizer, or gambler. "We had a warm relationship. You'd kind of know if those things were going on."

Quane said he was "infuriated" by some of the comments made by bloggers at the end of a story published in Newsday. "These people have nothing better to do." Some likened the saga to the Richard Roth disappearance – he later turned up alive and was arrested for insurance fraud. Anderson also said that there were occasional "copy cat" crimes, though he doubted that was the case. Another blogger posted, Richardson "probably got the idea of 'drowning and missing' from the movie Sleeping with the Enemy." Several suggested Richardson absconded with funds he raised for the hospital.

Quane said there was no chance of anything like that happening. "I know what kind of man George is. He's one of the most decent people I have ever met."

Anderson said a man was spotted on a Boogie Board in the water that morning. Though Richardson didn't have one with him, "every day we collect three or four of them from the beach." There have been numerous tips, some far-fetched, all followed up by investigators to no avail.

Richardson, an avid Miami Dolphins fan, was well liked and respected. "It's very difficult to talk about," said Ann Marie Thornby, a co-worker at Huntington Hospital. "He was dedicated to his family."

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