Remains found on burning boat; man sought

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:17:24 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 15 2012 09:52:02 AM EDT

A mystery in St. Marys. The remains of one person were found on a burning boat yesterday and a man and a woman are missing.

ST. MARYS, Ga. -

A man and a woman are missing, and the remains of one person were found on a boat that was found burning early Monday morning in St. Marys, according to investigators.

Investigators are also looking for a person of interest.

St. Marys police said they were called to the suspicious boat fire at the St. Marys Boat Yard located along North River area of New Point Peter Road about 3:20 a.m. Monday. Investigators said there were suspicious audible sounds on a 911 call overheard by a dispatcher.

Officers said they saw the boat on fire while moored about 50 to 75 yards off shore.

Investigators searched the waterway, marshlands and shore lines along North River looking for anyone who may have abandoned the boat, but they didn't find anyone.

David Trauger Officers said they recovered a small, dingy watercraft that was capsized and was believed to have belonged to the owner of the boat. They said the dingy had charring to the hull and the mooring line appeared to have been burnt from where it was tied to the boat.

The burning 37-foot boat, called the Great Harbour, was maneuvered closer to the St. Marys Boat Yard dock, where firefighters put the fire out.

Investigators said the boat owner, Karen Barnes, could not be found. In their search efforts, officers were directed to a neighboring boat owned by Larry Ford, who was supposed to be aboard his boat and was an acquaintance of Barnes. Investigators said they searched Ford's boat and determined he, too, was missing from the area.

Investigators said that based on information received from interviewing of people at the boat yard and the 911 audio recording, it is possible Barnes and Ford may have been on board the boat at the time of the fire, but no confirmation of Ford being on board was found.

IMAGES: Boat burns, remains found

Investigators said they also found out that Barnes and her ex-husband, David Trauger (pictured above), were involved in a dispute over the boat after Barnes was initially awarded the boat as part of the divorce property settlement.

Trauger was known to be in the St. Marys area prior to the boat fire and was a suspect in a previous burglary and criminal damage investigation involving the boat that occurred in July at the St Marys Boat Yard.

Barnes and Trauger were scheduled to appear in Brunswick Superior Court on Tuesday in connection with the ownership of the boat involved in the fire. A temporary Family Violence Protection Order was issued through the court on Aug. 3 by Barnes, but Trauger could not be found to be served with the protection order by Glynn County authorities, investigators said.

Neighbors say they knew there were issues between the two.

"We knew there was a domestic dispute going on because we tried to keep a watch out on the boat a little bit just to see what was going on," said neighbor Bob Winter, who also lives on a boat.

During the initial processing of the boat, crime scene investigators found the charred remains of one human skeleton. Because of the condition of the remains, it could not be determined whether they were that of a man or woman.

The remains were collected and transported to the Camden County
Coroners Office for storage and transport to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner's Office for identification analysis. It's unclear how long the forensic analysis will take to complete investigators said.

Local authorities have issued local, state and national attempts to locate bulletins for Trauger in connection with the July burglary. He is considered a person of interest in the boat fire investigation.

The search continues for Barnes and Ford as there is no confirmation at this time that either one of the them are dead, investigators said. They are still considered to be missing and endangered.

Trauger, 67, is described as a white man, 160-170 pounds, with a slender build. He is an avid boater and is known to own numerous properties up and down the East Coast.

Anyone with any information on Trauger's whereabouts is asked to call the St. Marys Police Department.

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