Family, Friends Continue Search As Authorities Probe
FENWICK ISLAND - Family and friends of a Delaware man reported missing last week in Fenwick Island continue to keep hope alive, but after a massive search effort throughout the area over the last several days has failed to produce any new clues about his whereabouts, the case is slowly moving away from a physical search to more of an investigation.
Gregory R. Forte, 29, of Selbyville, was last seen around 11:30 p.m. last Tuesday at a small gathering of around eight people in a condominium on South Carolina Ave. in Fenwick. When he did not return home on Wednesday, family and friends became concerned and went to the area where he was last seen and found his vehicle, a gray Jeep Cherokee, in a covered condominium parking lot with the door open and the radio still playing.
Forte's sweatshirt and cell phone were both reportedly wet and found in the car. The cell phone battery was dead. In addition, the glasses he was wearing at the time of his disappearance were also found in the vehicle. Last week, it was reported Forte's knit hat was found near the dune at the entrance to the beach. This week, however, it was not a knit hit but rather his favorite black baseball cap, and that it was found on the east side of the beach road and not on the beach.
Other new details emerged this week. For example, it was learned one pair of Forte's shoes as well as his jacket were discovered at the house the following morning. It has not been confirmed if Forte was wearing shoes when he left the house, but those with him that night believe he had shoes on when he walked outside.
In addition, there is no evidence his footprints were leading to the beach although the area was hammered with blizzard conditions the day Forte's disappearance was reported. The night before, a mix of rain, snow and sleet was falling on the area.
Blizzard conditions in the area last Wednesday hampered the initial search effort somewhat, but when the weather cleared last Thursday, a massive search of the area including Fenwick Island, north Ocean City and areas north and west of Fenwick began in earnest. Delaware law enforcement officials along with hundreds of Forte's family and friends combed the area searching for him or any evidence of his whereabouts.
A helicopter search of the entire area was conducted as public and private search teams went door-to-door in Fenwick and in north Ocean City. Last Saturday, a team of dogs was taken through the Fenwick area, but no new evidence was uncovered. The search continued this week to no avail, forcing Delaware State Police to scale back their efforts somewhat.
'We're still looking, but obviously, the search effort has been scaled back to some degree,' Delaware State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Walter Newton said yesterday. 'At this point, the case is moving from an active search to more of an investigation.'
Meanwhile, family members this week announced they are offering a $25,000 reward for information about Forte's disappearance or his whereabouts. In addition, a fund in his name has been set up at the PNC Bank branch in Fenwick Island. The private search effort for Forte continues with an extensive flier campaign throughout Lower Delaware, Ocean City and even West Ocean City.