Partial Transcribed Version:
Introduction to show begins
Todd (Missing Pieces Host): Hello everybody. Welcome to Missing Pieces. Tonight we have Christine Hill. Her mother, Diana Lynn Harris, disappeared from Big Pine Key, Florida, at age 27, in October of 1981. Welcome Christine.
Christine Hill (Guest): Thank you
Todd: So, I hear today’s your birthday!
Christine: Yes it is
Todd: How old are you?
Christine: I’m 36
Todd:: That’s not a nice question to ask a lady, is it?
Christine: I don’t mind <laugh>
Todd: OK, you’re the same age I am. I know it’s not how old, you’re young at heart. OK, now, I’ve known you for quite awhile online. We’ve actually had quite a few conversations, and I know you went through a lot with your mother’s case and you wrote a really good outline and we’ve got a link on the Missing Pieces website, Real Crimes dot com. You wrote this yourself, right?
Christine: Yes I did.
Todd: You did a great job.
Christine: Thank you.
Todd: You really did a good job with this case. Do you remember, you were ten years old at the time?
Todd: OK, what was the circumstances of that day when this happened?
Christine: Um, well, I wasn’t actually in Florida when she disappeared. The last time I saw her was June 7th, 1981.
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: My brother and I were sent back here to Michigan to spend the summer with our Dad and that was the last time we saw her. We were supposed to go back down to Florida when summer was over but during that time we lost contact with her and my Grandmother had called the police, and they never found her.
Todd: So Big Pine Key, Florida, is that like your hometown?
Christine: That was where we lived.
Todd: OK. And you’re back in Michigan where you went with your father.
Todd: OK. Is your brother, is he helping you with this search?
Christine: He doesn’t help a lot with it. He’s interested in what I might find out. But he more or less sticks in the back.
Todd: But he’s very supportive?
Christine: Yes, he’s very supportive.
Todd: That’s good. We find a lot of people like that. There seems to be a leader that goes down to try to tackle the case and then other people then offer support. At least you’re lucky you’ve got someone for support with this.
Todd: OK, how did you find out?
Christine: My Grandmother told me that she disappeared, or that the police were looking for her, and couldn’t find her. And at the time that’s all she could tell me; or wanted to, because I was only ten. She wasn’t getting much help with the police in 1981. They said they were investigating; they were looking for her boyfriend at the time.
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: He had taken off right after she disappeared and went to Mexico. He stole a boat and went to Mexico and the police didn’t find him until 1982, and I believe it was in July of 1982. He claimed not to have anything to do with the disappearance but they suspected that he was lying to them.
Todd: Can you give his name?
Christine: Yes. His name is Gary Argenzio.
Todd: Ok and where is he now?
Christine: He passed away in ’92.
Todd: OK. I remember you telling me that in an email. Well that kind of puts another kink in it.
Todd: OK, your brother; is he older or younger than you?
Christine: He’s a year younger.
Todd: OK, so it’s probably a littler harder for him even to remember all this.
Christine: Yeah, he mainly just remembers our time spent doing fun things down in Florida with our mom.
Todd: Were your parents divorced?
Christine: Yes they were.
Todd: OK. I’m trying to get a lot of background data on this to go on. I’m reading a portion where you said, “When I turned seventeen, I returned to Florida to begin my personal investigation on my mom’s disappearance.” What prompted you to do that? You were seventeen; you were a kid…
Christine: Actually I think I was sixteen and I put seventeen on there by mistake. But um, I actually ran away to go to Florida. I wanted to find my mom; I was not a real happy teenager. I spent most of my teen years wondering what happened to my mom and I’d never really ever been given any answers and I wanted to find out what happened to her. Nothing too much came from that. I did find out some information on Gary at the time. Different things he had been arrested for and different aliases he had used in the past, but that’s as far as I got at that time.
Todd: Well how does a sixteen year-old get away, run away and go and find out all this information at that point in time?
Christine: I had a friend that was in Miami
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: And I sold some of my things and got a plane ticket and left.
Todd: Wow. Now how did you manage to get this data? This is before the Internet!
Christine: Right, right.
Todd: I mean you were a kid…
Christine: Yeah. Well, I had a very nice lady, an assistant State’s attorney that she was the one that prosecuted Gary for stealing the boat…
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: I had contacted her and she’s the one that gave me that information on Gary.
Todd: Wow. What happened after you ran away? Did you remain in Florida?
Christine: No. I was only there for maybe a month.
Todd: And then?
Christine: And then I came back here to Michigan.
Todd: Were you in a little bit of trouble?
Christine: Ah, a little bit <laughs>
Todd: I can imagine but I see why you did it. I know of other people who have done similar things to that. OK, so there are so many things in this case. “Recently ran names connected to mom’s disappearance into search engines. When I came to the name Mark Ripin -an ex-convict who was also questioned in regards to my mom’s case. My heart dropped into my shoes when I realized he was connected as a possible suspect to the Tom Stump case.” What can you tell us about that particular paragraph?
Christine: Well, in ’95, the police in Florida decided to reinvestigate my mom’s case and that was all because I had contacted them after telling them my mom lived with an attorney in Florida named Mitchell Denker and I talked to him about what happened back then and he told me that he had thought that her boyfriend Gary killed her
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: and he told me for all he knew that she could have been buried right in his back yard. When I contacted the police with this information, they decided to reinvestigate and one of my very first questions were, “Can you dig the back yard up?”
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: They got a hold of me two weeks later and told me that the backyard had been cemented in and it was impossible to dig it up. From that point on, they had interviewed a few people, Mark Ripin was one of them, and Mitchell Denker was the other one, and a girlfriend that worked with my mom back in ’81, they interviewed her again. After, it was probably, six years
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: before the police had got a hold of me again to tell me that these two men had said they had saw holes and blood on the wall of that house that my mom lived in and said that Gary had told them that he smashed my mom’s head into the wall. And at that time I was very upset, mainly because in ’95 the police had told me that they would inform me of any new information and I definitely considered that new information, even if it wasn’t proven. I still think that they should have told me that these two men came forward and said this.
Todd: That was a significant bit of information to give you something to really go on.
Christine: Right. Um, after finding out all this information I decided to look up Mark’s name on the Internet and I did see the website, the Real Crimes site, and his name was mentioned from reading the Tom Stump case and I was pretty shocked and I left a message on the message board there asking if anybody there knew Mitchell Denker. I figured if they knew Mitchell Denker then it had to be the same Mark Ripin.
Christine: And they knew Mitchell Denker and Tom’s wife actually knew Mitchell; were friends with Mitchell Denker. And Tom’s wife also knew my mom in ’81.
Christine: Finding out all this information all at once and I didn’t know where to go with it.
Todd: And you knew that Tom Stump had for sure disappeared from Big Pine Key Florida in 1995.
Todd: And his body also was never found.
Christine: And his wife at the time my mom disappeared was actually married to this Mark Ripin and I have been told by Mark Ripin that he and Bernie both, Tom’s wife, actually lived with my mom, or in the same house as my mom did when she disappeared.
Todd: Wow. And that was like over a six year time period you’re dwelling on this from like a ten year old. You run away, you get there, you had to wait all these years to get even more data.
Todd: OK, now where did you go from there? I mean, did you put more into Tom’s case?
Christine: I definitely looked more into his case. I was trying to find a better link other than just the fact that they knew each other, and so right now, at this point, we do have a private investigator investigating both of the cases.
Todd: It’s rare to see your mother’s name without a connection to him on the websites. You’ve done a great job, it’s very obvious. It’s rare to see your mom’s name without Tom Stump connected to it. You’ve worked on him quite a bit; too, it’s very obvious.
Christine: Yeah, I still have hopes for both the cases to be solved and I believe that the private investigator is doing a great job finding new information.
Todd: So is Tom’s mother involved in this, hiring the investigator as well as you guys. And you’ve met his mother, right?
Christine: Yes I have
Todd: I think I have a picture of that.
Todd: OK. Your grandmother filed a missing
person’s report in both Michigan and
Monroe County, Florida,
Todd: Now did she have any trouble filing this missing person’s report cause a lot of people they had a problem with actually getting that through.
Christine: Well when she filed it here, they waited quite awhile before they actually told her she had to file it in Florida. She filed it here in August,
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: On August 4th, and then she wasn’t told until the beginning of October when she had to file it in Florida, that they couldn’t do anything with it. October 7th, I believe, when she filed her missing in Florida.
Todd: A lot of time passed since then.
Todd: That’s critical time. Do you ever wonder why she wasn’t told immediately? You would think they would know.
Todd: You know that hey, we can’t do anything about that.
Christine: I really don’t know why she wasn’t told immediately. I know that the Florida police didn’t work with her long in the beginning. She had asked, I think it was a couple of years later, she had asked to see the case files and they put her off many times and then eventually they said that they couldn’t find them; that they were lost.
Todd: What do you think really happened there? Were they lost?
Christine: Well I had been informed a couple of years ago that they were actually intentionally destroyed by the Sheriff at that time. However it wasn’t just her case files that were destroyed, that, I was told, that everybody’s from ’81 to half of ’84, all those case files were destroyed and the reason they give me today was that it was common back then to get rid of old case files. However, my Grandmother was still trying to get the case files in ’85 and I don’t consider them that old in ’85 with those four years passing by. So I think there’s more to that than what I’m being told.
Todd: You think the possibility exists that there’s a lack of something that wasn’t put together correctly. I’ve seen things that a case where somebody has worked on and then they really follow good procedure and they get embarrassed and things just kind of disappear.
Christine: The only reason why I would think that it would be more than that is because I had also been informed a couple of years ago that the house that my mom lived at with her boyfriend at Mitchell Denker’s house, they had used it to distribute drugs out of that house.
Todd: Um hmm
Christine: And my mom, one of her last phone calls was to someone here in Michigan. She had called and said that she was scared that the phones were tapped and said that there was a big drug bust about to happen and that’s the last time that anyone’s heard from her.
Todd: Now this back yard that is all concreted in, has this ever been fully explored?
Christine: It’s not concreted it. They told me that it was back then, well, in ’95 they said it was. Right now it’s on the Internet for sale and it says there’s room to have a pool dug and eventually a pond right now in the backyard that had been done.
Todd: So it’s a real possibility if somebody digs a pool. You know, I’ve read about cases like that where, you know, something is found, a piece of evidence is found while somebody is doing construction.
Todd: And you know that’s got to cross your mind.
Christine: They still will not dig up the yard. They said they have to get permission from the owners and I believe it’s just too costly to the police department.
Todd: Brings to mind that maybe you want to buy that piece of property!
Todd: If you could afford that! Do you think that with some type of media exposure and the right person behind it, do you think that there’s the possibility that there’s really a body encased in there? If you find a piece of evidence, you’re going to have to follow up on it.
Christine: Right. I’m not real confident that I’d get cooperation from the next person who buys it. Maybe if they didn’t previously live in Florida.
Christine: You know, I would like to talk to the next people that buy the house. There’s actually two houses involved in her case. I was told by several people that she lived in this house on Big Pine Key, however her case files say that she lived on No Name Key.
Todd: Have you talked to the real estate agent in this case?
Christine: Yeah, I have.
Todd: Knowing you, I had a feeling you have! Well they dug up half of Michigan looking for Jimmy Hoffa. What’s the difference?
Todd: I mean really...imagine!
Christine: I’ve actually asked the same question before. Yah know I felt like, if I said he was buried in that back yard they'd be digging it up immediately.
Todd: Yeah, and that’s something you think about.
Todd: Why? What is the difference? There’s no difference.
Todd: You’ve got a good reason to think there’s a possibility she could be buried there.
There’s also another possibility…
Christine: That’s not a good enough reason.
Christine: Because he denied it later, Mitchell did. Mitchell Denker denied ever saying that to me.
Todd: But you know better.
Todd: You know what you heard, and there’s a possibility I’ve read that her, if she was murdered, her body could've been put into the ocean.
Todd: What do you think about that?
Christine: I think that’s a very, very likely possibility that she was put into the ocean. I mean there were a couple of different boats involved. Gary had borrowed a boat from Mitchell Denker and Mark Ripin and he took that out, only it broke down on him and so he stole this other boat.
Todd: Um hmm.
Christine: I’m pretty sure that… ya know, being in the Keys that would be a definite way of not getting caught.
Todd: Well it’s an obvious choice. The ocean is so readily available there.
Christine: I really do not…I believe my Mom was murdered and that it happened in 1981. Umm… the only way I think that she'd still be alive was if she was sold. Because there are a lot of drugs, you know, drugs deals going on down there, and you know… I know some of the people that were involved or questioned. They went out of the country all the time, and that is a possibility, but I really doubt it.
Todd: Now I’ve read at one point they’ve said that it was impossible to bury a body in the yard because of the coral.
Todd: O.K. then how you going to dig a pool?
Todd: I mean you know, you’ve got to think about that. How could you dig a pool? That was his reason for not doing it. The story just keeps changing, so to me it looks like some body’s had the opportunity to be there and if she was there, look how much time they’ve had to move her.
Todd: Again you know it’s just…? Is your Grandmother still living?
Christine: No she is not. She passed away in 2001.
Todd: And she was probably your biggest ally in this up to that point in time?
Christine: Right, yes she was.
Todd: Did she give you a lot to go on in the mean time?
Christine: Umm…unfortunately I didn’t ask the right questions, a couple of very important questions. I was trying to find my Mom’s dental records for a long time and I never asked her if she put them in her case file, although her case file doesn’t exist anymore, but umm… She gave me names of people involved or people she had talked to and she wrote down what she talked to them about and who they were. Umm…there was one name that I…named Michael Gilbert…the attorney whose house my Mom lived in, he was Mitchell Denker’s, I believe cousin. He was also an attorney and he also represented Gary for the boat theft. Umm… and that didn’t make much sense because Mitchell had already told…when I talked to Mitchell on the phone, he told me that he had not wanted anything to do with Gary after that, and then he has his cousin representing Gary for free and then his cousin also died of a drug overdose. I believe maybe in 1984.
Todd: And all of these names make the cases so confusing because there are so many names to it and so many people involved in that… Anybody that listens tonight can actually go the web site and you’ve got it written down really well, you’ve really…you’ve put a lot of thought into this. You’ve got it really organized where it’s easy to understand it after you read it.
Todd: I’m reading another little portion of this. It’s ah, Swims with sharks. Now one of these guys was a shark hunter? Is that true?
Christine: I believe ah…that was a statement made on the message board, the Real Crimes message board.
Todd: Um Hmm.
Christine: Someone made that statement referring to Manny Puig Swims with the sharks and Mitchell Denker swims with the sharks, but just not literally.
Todd: Not the fish sharks, you maybe mean the drug sharks?
Christine: Right. That’s what that comment meant.
Todd: It’s hard to pull that stuff apart, but…Wow, this is a wild case. Somebody actually…they told you about a hole in the wall made with your Mom’s head..now…
Christine: Well actually, umm..I spoke with Mark Ripin on the phone before and what he told me was that he saw a hole and he did not see any blood, however he told police that he did see blood and it shows in his interview that the police gave him that he did see blood too. The only difference in their stories is that Mitch said the hole and the blood was in the bedroom and Mark said it was by the back door.
Todd: So everybody’s stories seem to just continually change.
Christine: That they came forward and said this in 95 doesn’t make much sense to me, because if they would've said it in 1981, and of course I don’t have proof of it because of her case files getting destroyed, but I would think that the police would've considered that important then, and at least have told us, or informed us that, that was said back then.
Todd: Well there was follow up that could have been done at that point in time.
Todd: Now who's working on the case now? What law enforcement agency and detective aside from the one that you’ve hired?
Christine: Detective Mark Coleman of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Todd: O.K. do you have the…is that somebody you want to give his contact information, do you have it available, or do you look it up on the website?
Christine: (305)289-2410 - www.keysso.net
Todd: Why do you think your mother was killed? What would have been the point of killing her?
Christine: I believe she knew too much, um…Drugs, you know I believe that she got involved with people that were more involved with drugs than she had realized. My Mom did get somewhat involved in drugs here in Michigan, um..but not deeply or heavily involved in drugs. She was depressed, um..she was having a hard time excepting her brothers suicide and…
Todd: Um hmm.
Christine: So I know she smoked pot and I know that down there they had a lot of it. Even as a ten year old I remember seeing big, huge stalks of it right in front of me.
Todd: So you think she possibly just got in over her head or just got involved with people that were a little more dangerous than she realized?
Todd: ...and wanted out of it?
Christine: Yeah I definitely believe she wanted out um..and I have to go by her one phone call she made to her friend….saying she thought the phones were bugged and saying there was a big drug deal about to happen and I have been told that they did run drugs from that house. They used boats I guess to get them where they needed to go.
Todd: Wow….and I see that you never….well you don’t have an age progression posted of your mother?
Christine: No I don’t.
Todd: ...and because you felt like she passed away at that point in time…that she was murdered?
Christine: Yes I do. I still have hope of solving her case and finding out exactly who killed her and finding the exact connection between the Tom Stump case and my Mom’s.
Todd: ...and going back and talking to Tom Stump’s family….
Christine: Um hmm.
Todd: Now there is obviously a lot of connections here that you’ve uncovered. What have you found out your own self in this case?
Christine: Um…I just…you know the whole time I’ve been keeping in touch with the private investigator and Rose’s family, um, there’s just too many coincidences and these cases, for them not to be linked by people just knowing each other. You know Bernie was Tom’s wife when he disappeared and then my Mom disappeared when she was married to Mark Ripin and they lived with my Mom and just there’s a lot more that I can’t say right now, because of the investigation.
Todd: So we can look forward to…you’ve got a lot more going on then what we’ve read on the Internet?
Christine: Yes, I do.
Todd: and that’s good, and that makes me think you’re getting ahead of yourself a little bit. Ahh, more cases, are there any others?
Christine: Um, there’s some that I’ve heard things about, that have made me wonder.
Todd: Um hmm.
Christine: If there was a possible connection or link, um…the Gerald Oxby case. He disappeared in Key West in August of 91, I mean 81, the very beginning of August and the very beginning of August is also when, you know we last heard from my Mom. There was a boat that disappeared with him and during that same time Gerald and his boat disappeared Gary was in Key West buying boat parts from different marinas down there. He also lived right around the corner from where Mitchell Denker worked and where the guy lived that Gary did steal the boat from. It’s just made me look into his case a little bit deeper too and I am in contact with his son, trying to help him in whatever way I can.
Todd: So you’ve been a big help to each other I’m sure in that case.
Todd: O.K. the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the number is 305-296-2424, it’s 305-296-2424 and the FBI in Sarasota, have you had any contact with those guys? Have they any direct contact with you or?
Christine: Not directly. I’ve had someone else contact them for me.
Todd: O.K. another tip from the Internet and I know you comment a lot of people online. Does it seem like people are more than willing to help?
Christine: Definitely yes. I’ve had a lot of support from; you know the Doe Network and Cold Case Files and Unsolved Crimes International, um..I can’t even begin to explain. I don’t think I would’ve had the motivation to keep going.
Todd: and that’s encouraging.
Christine: Yeah, and my hope has come back, for years I had no hope, but just meeting people who have been through similar things and people that are very encouraging to me does help a lot.
Todd: I know you’ve probably seen, we’ve had quite a few breakthroughs in some of these organizations you know, some cases that you know a lot of people said probably would never be resolved and I don’t think, you know you can’t say that it’s skilled police work. You know obviously you’ve been doing things like this, you’re doing it cause you know it needs to be done. You have to ? ?(don’t understand Todd’s words here) and try to do what you know will possibly help. I think that’s what a lot of us do.
Todd: and that’s what you’ve had to learn, how to be a victim, and what are you going to do about it? So I’m glad to see you’ve gotten encouragement and I know you offered encouragement, especially to Tom’s family. Seems like you’ve have helped give them a lot of encouragement in their case.
Christine: Well ahh, I’ve gotten it from them too.
Todd: Their kind of like family I’m sure?
Todd: You stay in a lot of really close contact with them?
Christine: Yes I do.
Todd: and I see you’re on the Internet just everyday.
Christine: Yeah <laughs>
Todd: I see something posted from you just everyday online.
Christine: Yes I try to post about other missing kids and I go through the Doe Network cases over and over and over just looking for matches to try to help somebody.
Todd: That’s important to do that because a lot of people there, there’s nothing been done. You know unless somebody just continually looks at em and tries to make potential matches. Have you ever met a potential match that you thought…have you seen anything that you thought, that could be your mother?
Christine: Oh definitely.
Todd: O.K. did you follow up on any of them personally?
Christine: I did follow up…um..most of the ones I followed up on ended up not being her, well all of them apparently, but the latest one ahh they just did a DNA comparison on an unidentified in Sarasota, Florida…
Todd: Um hmm.
Christine: and it turned out negative, um..they’re doing another one on an unidentified found right in Monroe County. Um..only the date says 1979 this girl was found. The detective told me that it is possible that police made a mistake on the date, so basically we’re trying to eliminate all of the ones that I think are possible matches.
Todd: and that’s a good way to approach it sometimes, you know instead of finding a match, your finding what’s not a match.
Todd: Process of elimination.
Christine: Right and I would consider it a true miracle if I, you know if we ever found her because with the ocean surrounding the Keys, it’s very unlikely.
Todd: Things happen every day though, you know. A lot of amazing things, I’ve read about a case today, you know 30 years old and you know, they’ve got a bit of evidence and that, so it’s possible. You know there’s always a possibility and I know you’re not gonna give up on it..Have you actually found an NCIC number?
Christine: Um…she does have one