ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- He refuses to lose hope.
Nearly 34 years after one of his brothers went missing, a St. Lucie County man is taking matters into his own hands to find his brother’s body.
Tony DiFrancesco has received plenty of calls and possible tips over the years, but very few seem legitimate. Recently, he got a call from someone out of state who seemed to know where the body of DiFrancesco’s brother, Patrick DiFrancesco, might be.
“The gentleman calling me, he said he didn’t want any money. The only thing he wanted was to get it off of his chest.”
That took DiFrancesco to a large property off of Orange Avenue in the western part off the county. He hired two search teams, consisting of 12 cadaver dogs, and received assistance from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
When it comes to getting closure for his family, says he will stop at nothing. “We will never stop looking for him,” DiFrancesco said.
Patrick DiFrancesco went missing in August 1985. “He was 24-years-old. He was getting his pilot's license and he was recruited into the wrong kind of people.”
DiFrancesco believes his brother and his brother's friend were taking a plane ride to pick up drugs before they were last seen.
“We believe he was killed in a house in St. Lucie County and he was buried somewhere in one of the orange groves or one of the areas out in western St. Lucie County,” DiFrancesco said.
Looking at old maps of the area, they learned the caller told them to search an area that used to be a landing strip. DiFrancesco said the plane never turned up, so this location would make sense. “I figured if we find an airplane, my brother can’t be far from it.”
Cadaver dogs seemed to indicate there could be something of interest at a couple sites on the property. DiFrancesco probed the ground at those areas to release the scent of human remains should they be buried deeper in the ground.
The dogs never alerted to any possible remains after their efforts. “I would have been happy and it would have been a relief,” DiFrancesco said.
It’s a disappointment after so many years, but DiFrancesco says it is not a defeat. “We’ll never stop searching. I mean, all we want is closure and the only way to get closure is to find his body.”
He has done several large searches like this one over the years. There is only one thing, he says, that would make him stop searching.
“When they throw dirt on my face,” said DiFrancesco.
The CUE Center for Missing Persons and a team from Orlando helped with the search.
DiFrancesco is still offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with information that leads him to the missing plane or Patrick DiFrancesco’s body.
“There's quite a few people who know. If somebody just wants to come forward and throw a ball in the area where he is at and say, 'hey there’s a ball out there,' we’re willing to take it from there,” DiFrancesco said.
Anyone with information about the case can contact the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office or call DiFrancesco directly at 772-201-5561.
He says all information will remain anonymous.