TWO GONE MISSING –
THE MISSING PERSONS CASES OF TOM STUMP AND DIANA HARRIS
(a work in progress)
EXCERPT FROM END OF CHAPTER THREE
----- To Rose’s relief, the search for Tom’s body proved fruitless. No scent of rotted flesh had arisen from the undergrowth. No gun had been found and no pail that a gun had been hidden in. Rose knew the reprieve was a brief one. There would be more searches, for the swampland extended far beyond Tom’s property, but, at least for the moment, she had not been deprived of all hope that her son might still be alive.
Bonnie was extremely concerned that Tom might return home to an empty house, while she and her mother and sister were at Bernie’s family reunion. So, Bernie announced that a woman friend and her husband would be keeping an eye on the place in case Tom returned. Tom’s truck would be there, and his wallet would be left on the kitchen table, along with a note welcoming him home. She also left her friend the keys to Tom’s truck.
“Bonnie, if Tom comes back, everything will be okay,” Bernie assured her older daughter.
On Sunday, after Bernie and the girls had left for the reunion, Rose and
“Those aren’t typical actions for a man who is contemplating suicide,” the investigator commented.
“There’s something else that’s been bothering me,”
There was a long moment of silence as Rose and the detective processed that information.
“Are you speculating that Tom was abducted while he was putting his boots on?” the detective asked, frowning.
“It does sound crazy,”
“There’s another possibility,” the investigator said thoughtfully. “If Tom was
murdered after he entered the woods, and the killer wanted to make it appear to be a
suicide, he might have taken a boot from Tom’s work room to plant at the edge of a
swamp or on one of the beaches, to give the impression that Tom’s body was immersed in water and the boot had floated to the surface. If that was the plan, then you foiled it by discovering the second boot.”
Rose felt sick to her stomach. “You seem so sure that Tom’s dead!”
‘1’m not sure of anything,” the detective told her more gently. “I’m open to all possibilities and hope for the best. Nothing would make me happier than to learn that your son walked off into the sunset with a new lady friend. But nothing’s come up to suggest that. Bernie told detectives that Tom’s never looked at another woman and spent all his free time at home with her and the children. If the worst is true, and he is dead, I doubt that it was suicide. Is there anyone you can think of who had a reason to want Tom dead?”
“I can’t think of a soul,” Rose said immediately. She couldn’t begin to focus her mind in that direction.
“What about the wife? A victim’s spouse or lover is always the first suspect. Bernie wanted a divorce, and she says Tom wouldn’t cooperate. That might be considered a motive, though it’s sort of a weak one.”
“And it’s not exactly true,”
“Perhaps he was making demands that ‘those other guys’ didn’t make?” the investigator suggested, playing Devil’s Advocate. “You told me about that ‘code of the hills’ statement he made the last time he discovered she was cheating on him.”
“Mark Ripin is an interesting character,” the investigator said. “I hate to add to your worries, but I ran a background check on him and discovered that he’s an ex-convict.  He’s served time in prison for armed robbery and been involved with some pretty shady characters. Does his daughter still keep in touch with him?”
“Oh, yes,” Rose said. “Bonnie’s last name
was legally changed to ‘Stump,’ but Mark wouldn’t sign the papers to permit Tom
to adopt her. I remember how excited
Bonnie was when they did the name change, and I sent her an ID. bracelet with ‘Bonnie Stump’ on it. She calls Tom ‘Daddy Tom,’ and calls Mark
‘Daddy Mark.’ Mark was the first person
Bonnie phoned after Tom went missing.
She says he drove up from
“So Bernie and Mark are still on good terms?”
“Yes, definitely,” Rose said. “Bernie considers Mark one of her very best friends. But I can’t think of any reason for Mark to want to harm Tom. It’s not like they were rivals or anything. Tom treated Mark well, and he was always welcome to see Bonnie whenever he wanted to, even though he didn’t pay child support.”
“Why the hell doesn’t he pay child support?” the investigator asked them. “What does Mark Ripin do for a living?”
Neither could come up with an answer.
“According to Bonnie, he just sort of drifts,” Rose said
finally. “He doesn’t have a regular job, he just does this or that to eke out a living. 
He’s out of the country a lot, going back and forth to
The investigator did not seem surprised by that statement.
“I’d be interested in knowing the purpose of those trips,” he said. “Mark has a questionable history. I know for a fact that he used to hang out at a party house on Big Pine Key where a lot of drug stuff went on. What about Tom and Bernie? Does either have a drug problem?”
“Both of them used to,” Rose admitted reluctantly. “When Tom was in his twenties, back in
“Drug operations are big business in the Keys,” the investigator
told her. “I’m not talking about people
growing pot in their backyards; I’m talking about a major
“We’ve no reason to think that Tom was a whistle-blower,” Rose objected. “Just because he used to smoke pot and possibly still does, doesn’t mean he has information about major drug activities.”
“There’s no way to know what he may have found out about,” the detective said. “He must have known the identities of Bernie’s cocaine suppliers, even if she’s now stopped using. And he may have learned about other things from Mark Ripin, especially in regard to the people at that party house. And now your son has disappeared into nowhere, and the only people who are looking for him are his neighbors. Can you tell me why the mysterious disappearance of a local businessman hasn’t been reported in the news?”
“I think it was probably on the radio yesterday,”
“Becker didn’t do a story,” the investigator told them. “Nobody’s ever done a story. The public has no idea that Tom Stump is missing. Someone with clout has apparently thrown up a roadblock. The media has backed off and won’t touch this with a stick.” 
August 4, 1981, Diana Harris's mother filed
a missing person’s report on Diana in
mother then contacted Mitchell Denker, the attorney
who owned the party house. Denker stated that, one week after Diana disappeared, her
boyfriend, Gary Argenzio, Denker’s
grounds keeper, had stolen a boat and fled to
July 1982, Argenzio was arrested in
The years that followed were extremely traumatic for Christine. She and her brother were shuttled back and forth between relatives, one of whom was physically abusive, and the children eventually were separated. Sent to live with relatives out of state, in an effort to keep her safe from further abuse, Christine would lie in bed at night, both missing her brother and grieving for the mother who had been the center of both their lives.
The year Christine turned 15,
she sold enough of her possessions to buy a plane ticket to
That proved to be excellent advice, as the prosecutor was kind and receptive to the distraught teenager and supplied all the information that was currently available. Christine learned about Gary Argenzio’s many aliases, his assorted Social Security numbers, and his arrest dates for armed robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, lewdness and rape. The prosecutor agreed that Argenzio was a valid suspect in Diana’s disappearance, but said that there was no proof.
Christine returned from Florida to spend the rest of her teenage years with her grandmother in Michigan, but she knew that her mission had just started. She was more determined than ever to unearth the truth, even if it took her the rest of her life.
 Public records: “Mark Ripin
was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months.
 Bonnie’s statement to law enforcement, April 5, 1996, in response to the question, “What does your dad (Mark) do for a living?” “Oh, he – whatever he can find. He’s not a real big worker. Kind of does whatever.”
Bernie’s statement to law enforcement, April 5, 1996:
“Mark is a rolling stone. He has very little. He had no money. He just works job to job construction … Sometimes Mark would go a year and not see her (Bonnie), sometimes we would see him – we would call him Uncle Buck, Good Time Charlie.”
Bernie’s statement, April 30, 2006, submitted for inclusion in TWO GONE MISSING:
“Mark is a skilled building tradesman and a certified EMT. For you (Rose) to say that he is someone with no apparent means of support (who) came and went when he felt like it was not true then and is not true now.”
Mark Ripin’s post on Tom
Stump Internet message board,
“Hi, its me Mark Ripin … At the moment I have a successful International Drivers License buissness in Phnom Phen. I wiil be on theinternet soon. It’s the best license on the market in the world.”
 Bernie’s statement, April 30, 2006, submitted for inclusion in TWO GONE MISSING:
“A news story was not considered initially because either Tom committed suicide (and his body would eventually be found), in which case it would not normally be a news story out of consideration for the family, or he would return, in which case a news story would have been embarrassing for both him and the family … At no time was there ever an attempt by anyone to block such information.”