Detectives consider the Bunnell resident's disappearance suspicious.
Bunnell resident George Contos has been missing since May 2015, and detectives suspect foul play. On Jan. 5, The Sheriff's Office and Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida unveiled a billboard on North Oceanshore Boulevard in Palm Coast, seeking information about his disappearance and offering a $10,000 reward.
"Our detectives have followed up many leads and interviewed family, friends and acquaintances, and will continue to work very closely with the State Attorney's Office in this case," Sheriff James Manfre said at a news conference at the billboard site Jan. 5. "Right now, the leads have stopped, we have no other further information to go on, and that's why we've reached out to the community through this billboard, and through the media, to ask for help. ... Detectives and I believe that someone out there has some specific information that will help lead to the discovery of what happened, and we hope that this billboard remains as a constant reminder to the community that we need their help."
Officials played a prerecorded statement from Contos' son, Aaron Thayer, who pleaded for anyone with information about what happened to his father to come forward.
"This billboard makes more people aware about my father's disappearance and hopefully can bring somebody with information in to help find my father," Thayer said. "My father was a good guy, and he would do the same for anybody else if he knew anything. ... Anything that can help is much appreciated. ...Whether it's a small amount or a big amount of information, anything is better than nothing." Thayer thanked the officials who'd helped set up the billboard.
The billboard faces the northbound lanes of Oceanshore Boulevard at 4368 North Oceanshore Boulevard about 7.2 miles north of the intersection with State Road 100, and was paid for with money from the Crime Stoppers trust fund.
Investigative Services Division Commander Chris Sepe said at the news conference that detectives don't know if Contos is dead or alive. Officials believe the case is solvable, he said, but detectives found some of the circumstances surrounding the case suspicious and suspect foul play because of the amount of time that had passed since Contos' disappearance.
"We don't have enough to put a solid case together at this point, but we have bits and pieces and we're hoping that any information from the public would be able to compound what we've already developed, and make a case or bring some closure or bring George home, if that's possible," he said.
Sepe said Contos, described as a white man about 5 feet, 11 inches tall and with a prosthetic replacement for his left leg, was well-known in the community.
"And that's why we feel that the community has something," he said. "There's somebody out there that knows something. And there's no piece of information that is too small for us. So even if they feel that it's something that may not be relevant — please, give it to Crime Stoppers, give it to us. We'd love to take that bit of information. And you know, it may make a lot of sense to us and it may not make a lot of sense to you, but please, provide it anyway."
Contos, 59 and nicknamed "Uncle Waldo," was last seen May 7. Concerned out-of-state family members called the Sheriff's Office May 17, and deputies checked Contos' home at 5853 Apricot Avenue in Bunnell, but couldn't find him.
They found his white Lincoln Town Car empty in the parking lot of the Ace Hardware on Palm Coast Parkway May 20, entered Contos in a national database as missing, and sent out news releases May 20 and May 28 seeking information from the public.
Investigators found some evidence in the car, Sepe said, but could not release the details to the public. They also interviewed the last people they know of who saw him, and searched areas he'd last been seen.
"We don't believe he was doing any of this of his own free will," Sepe said. "It seemed like his house was kept in order, like he was expecting to return."
Contos didn't seem to be in any distress when he was last seen, officials said.
Manfre urged residents to come forward with any information that may help bring the family some closure.
"I think the time of this is particularly important," Manfre said. "We just went through the holiday period. It's a time where families gather and appreciate each others' company ... this particular family was not able to celebrate being with their father this holiday. Any information that could make their next holiday a little bit more bearable would go a long way to comfort them."
Anyone with information can report it anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-8477 (TIPS).