FENWICK ISLAND – Law enforcement officials are no closer to solving the disappearance of a Selbyville man, who went missing in Fenwick Island back on Feb. 9, after the investigation of a possible person of interest this week turned out to be fruitless.
Gregory R. Forte, 29, was last seen at a small gathering of about eight people in a condominium on South Carolina Ave. in Fenwick. When he did not return home the following day, family and friends became concerned and went to the area where he was last seen and found his gray Jeep Cherokee in a covered condominium parking lot with the door open and the radio playing.
Blizzard conditions in the area hampered the initial search effort somewhat, but when the weather cleared, a massive search of the area including all of Fenwick Island, north Ocean City and area north and west of Fenwick began in earnest. Delaware law enforcement officials along with hundreds of Forte’s family members and friends combed the area searching for Forte or any evidence of his whereabouts.
A helicopter search was conducted as public and private search teams went door-to-door in Fenwick and in north Ocean City. A team of search dogs was taken through the Fenwick area, but no new evidence was uncovered. Last week, Delaware State Police characterized the case as more of an investigation than a search and had their first real chance at a possible lead when they found out about a man who visited a nearby convenience store in the early morning hours on the day Forte disappeared.
Last weekend, Delaware State Police solicited the public’s help in identifying a man who went into a Shore Stop convenience store on Route 26 in Bethany Beach around 4 a.m. on Feb. 10, the early morning after the night Forte was last seen. The unidentified man reportedly told the store clerk he was returning from Wal-Mart when his vehicle broke down in Fenwick Island. Suspecting the man might be somehow connected to Forte’s disappearance, the store clerk related the incident to police.
This week, police announced the mystery man had been identified and questioned, but detectives said they were satisfied after the interview the man had nothing to do with Forte’s disappearance, according to DSP Public Information Officer Sgt. Walter Newton.
“Somebody voiced a concern about this individual and his possible connection to the case,” he said. “With the media’s help, we were able to identify him and question him, but it turned out he had nothing to do with the case. We’re satisfied on that.”
Detectives are no closer to solving the mystery, according to Newton, although they continue to receive and follow up on tips and leads.
“We can’t rule anything out at this point,” he said. “We continue to receive tips and follow up on leads, but we’re just not any closer to finding out what happened. We continue to urge anybody that has any piece of information, no matter how small they might think it is, to come forward. We’ll just keep following all leads until we get some kind of resolution.”
Meanwhile, family and friends have not given up hope for Forte’s safe return. A $25,000 cash reward for information on his disappearance remains in place.
That total could be bolstered with a fundraising effort set for next week. St. Luke’s Catholic Church is hosting a fundraiser next Thursday, March 4, at the St. Andrew’s Catholic Center in north Ocean City from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Four bands have already donated their time and local restaurants are donating the food.