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Remains found may be those of missing woman

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of March 9, 2023)

Is it possible that Susy Tomassi’s body had been submerged in the mangroves near the Oslo Road boat ramp for the past five years?

Could the massive search that ensued after the 73-year-old woman’s high-profile disappearance in March 2018 simply have missed her?

How did her body get there?

Sheriff’s detectives hope to get answers to those questions and others after a fisherman found skeletal remains about 150 yards north of the boat ramp last Friday.

According to a Sheriff’s Office statement, detectives believe the remains belong to Tomassi – who was last seen behind the Publix at U.S. 1 and Oslo Road – because of jewelry and other personal items located near the site.

As of Monday afternoon, however, the identity of the remains, which had been transported to the regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Pierce, had not yet been confirmed.

Sheriff Eric Flowers said in the agency’s statement that the Tomassi family has requested privacy until more information becomes available.

It’s unknown, however, how much detectives will learn from the skeletal remains, given how long Tomassi had been missing and how long her body had been submerged in the mangroves.

The Sheriff’s Office dispatched a helicopter, K-9 and marine units, agricultural units on all-terrain vehicles, a SWAT team, detectives, and patrol deputies within an hour after she was reported missing.

No clues were found.

Tomassi was in the early stages of dementia when she walked away from the Quilted Giraffe restaurant, which she owned with her husband Patrick, in the late afternoon of March 16, 2018.

Video evidence appeared to show she was headed south through the South Vero Square shopping plaza, then east toward the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, where her husband said she often would walk to smoke cigarettes.

Detectives believed she might’ve been abducted, but they had no leads to pursue – until October 2019, when they received surveillance video that shows Tomassi getting into a white pickup truck at the exit of the shopping center about an hour after she wandered away from the restaurant.

Detectives say the video shows the truck, after Tomassi got in, heading east on Oslo Road, toward the boat ramp before turning around and speeding west toward U.S. 1 only a few minutes later.

“This enhances our speculation of foul play,” then-Sheriff Deryl Loar said at the time.

While it’s possible the truck driver merely offered to give her a ride and innocently dropped her off somewhere, it seems unlikely – especially since police never heard from the driver during the intensive search for the missing woman.

“I believe whoever was driving that truck did something bad to her,” Greg Farless, the detective initially assigned to the case, said then.

“We know she walked the plaza, turned left at the Pizza Hut and was almost to the conservation area when she ran into the stopped truck,” Farless explained. “You can’t really see it, but I believe he said something to her as she walked behind the truck.

“I say ‘he,’ because I believe a man was driving the truck.”

Farless, though, said he believed Tomassi was still in the truck when it returned from the boat-ramp area and sped toward U.S. 1.

The video was the detectives’ last lead in the case – until last Friday.

When Tomassi disappeared, she had no access to money, other than the watch and jewelry she was wearing.

Tomassi’s husband subsequently closed the Quilted Giraffe, which has been razed and replaced by an emergency medical facility operated by the Fort Pierce-based Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.