A woman disappears after saying she’s going on a round-the-world sailing trip with her new boyfriend.
Weight: 115 to 120 lbs.
Hair: Gray and/or blonde
Remarks: Last seen 12/28/00
Colleen lived aboard John’s boat
When Colleen Wood moved from Dayton, Ohio, to Boca Raton, Florida, it was the culmination of a lifelong dream. Then Colleen met a former racecar driver and Wall Street investor named John Paul. After a whirlwind romance, Colleen vanished without a trace. She's never been seen or heard from again. Her son, Michael Tandarich, recalls what his mother had told him about John Paul:
"My mother met John Paul through a personal ad, looking for a sailing companion. And she was impressed with his credentials. He said he had an MBA from Harvard, and in the racing circuit, he was fairly famous. And he was also reputed to be wealthy due to his success in the ownership of a mutual fund company."
Colleen and John fell madly in love. They were inseparable. They soon made plans to sail around the world on John's 55-foot schooner the Island Girl. Colleen sold her condo and gave the profit to John to invest: $43,000. She moved in with him aboard the Island Girl, and then quit her job. Maureen Canada, owner of the Lighthouse Point Marina, was Colleen's boss:
Who took $40,000 from Colleen’s account?
"I was very, very shocked when Colleen told me that she was leaving. I personally was very concerned about her selling all of her assets to take this trip."
On December 3, 2000, Colleen placed a call to her son in Ohio. She told Mike that the Island Girl was setting sail in a few weeks and that she would be in touch soon. According to Maureen Canada, she spoke to Colleen about 10 days later to invite her to the office Christmas party:
"I called her cell phone number and she happened to be in Key West, at a bar with John Paul. She sounded fine. She sounded like she was having a good time."
According to Maureen, Colleen told her that she would definitely attend the party:
"Tuesday, the party came and went, and she didn't show up. But I just assumed that something happened, possibly rough seas, and they couldn't make it back on the boat."
Colleen's son also hadn't heard from his mother:
"She didn't call us for Christmas, Christmas Eve. And after New Years, everyone was really worried. Friends and family were asking, 'Haven't you heard?' Because we know she would have called. I tried to call her on her cell phone and the account had been closed."
Michael immediately contacted the police in Florida, but there was no evidence of any crime. Days turned into weeks and then months. Still, there was no sign of Colleen Wood.
Michael Tandarich tried to track down possible sightings of the Island Girl:
"We spent the best part of January and February calling back and forth with the Coast Guard and the FCC, just trying to in some way identify and locate this boat."
Michael searched the internet hoping to find an address or maybe a phone number for John Paul. What he discovered frightened him:
"I ran across an article that said that he had served time in prison. That he went to a federal penitentiary for approximately 15 years, serving time for attempted murder. I'm still thinking they're on a boat, but I'm thinking she's on a boat with a killer or a possible killer."
Michael learned that Colleen's boyfriend was the mastermind behind a drug smuggling ring in the early 80s, and that he had tried to kill his partners in crime. Colleen met John Paul less than a year after he was paroled.
Colleen's family and friends were certain she knew nothing about John Paul's past. Asked about her disappearance, John would eventually give three different accounts of his relationship with Colleen, which he says ended on the rocks.
Colleen's son, Michael, was able to track down John Paul's daughter. She told Michael that her father said that Colleen had become upset over an incident involving one of John Paul's old girlfriends and that she had been the one to end the relationship. The news only further fueled Michael's fears:
"When I heard that she'd broken up in December, I was panicked, completely panicked."
Three days later, John Paul called Michael with a second version of the story:
"He told me that they had an argument. He said he didn't remember what it was about. But after the argument, she left the boat. And then she came back with her "football player boyfriend," she gathered all of her belongings and she left the boat and he hasn't seen her since. I filed a missing persons report immediately with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department."
Four months after Colleen was last heard from, investigators from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department turned up some suspicious activity on her credit cards. According to Det. Mark Shotwell:
"In a two-month period between mid-December to mid-February, in excess of 80 transactions-- cash advancements-- totaling over $40,000, had occurred on Colleen Wood's cards. We were able to come up with good, solid physical evidence that not only did Colleen Wood not make any of the transactions, they were not made with her consent."
If it wasn't Colleen withdrawing cash from the ATMs, who was? The police were still investigating and will only say it was a woman, perhaps more than one.
Also raising suspicions were two ads that appeared in a local newspaper. According to Det. Shotwell, they were purchased with Colleen's credit card:
"Both of the ads were ordered by a male. The first ad that ran in early December was in the help wanted section, looking for a first mate on a boat. The second ad that ran mid-December was in the romance male-seeking-female section."
Had the ads been placed by John Paul? Detectives weren't sure. They only knew that the second ad began running on December 16, 2000, about the same time Maureen Canada spoke to Colleen by phone. According to Maureen, Colleen told her then that she was partying with John in Key West and that everything was fine.
Police finally tracked down John Paul and according to Det. Shotwell, he said he had no idea where Colleen was and offered a third version of the breakup:
"John Paul said that in mid-December he and Colleen had a large fight over money. That Colleen Wood owed him money and had made no effort to repay it."
But the alleged inconsistencies weren't all that troubled the Det. Shotwell:
"My partner and I both noticed that he was becoming increasingly more nervous. I found it unusual that he seemed to have so little concern over a woman that he lived with, that he loved. Just a very unusual interview. Very little compassion showed on his part."
Despite the allegations, suspicious behavior, and the inconsistent stories, there is no solid evidence to indicate Paul had anything to do with Colleen's disappearance. In fact, John Paul may have no knowledge whatsoever about the mystery. According to Det. Shotwell, he has not been named a suspect in the case:
"We have no body, no physical evidence to show us what happened to Colleen, but I can tell you it's not good. I don't believe Colleen Wood is with us anymore."
Meanwhile, Michael awaits word on what happened to his mother:
"We need to find out what happened. We need to know if indeed he's responsible for the death of my mother. I really want to see justice served."
John Paul has apparently left town, violating the terms of his parole. Detectives would like to find him to question him again about the disappearance of Colleen Wood.