The two missing Florida teens who disappeared last July after boating out from the Jupiter Inlet are still on the minds of everyone. Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, both 14, went fishing a mere hours before a violent storm rolled in. Many theorize that the boys’ boat capsized, but there’s chatter that something else may have happened to the missing Florida teens.
Mark McBride, a criminal defense attorney based in Beverly Hills, tells People magazine that there’s a high probability of foul play.
“I think there’s a 60 percent chance of foul play,” McBride said.
— People Magazine (@people) May 3, 2016
McBride’s suspicions sparked after the discovery of the teens’ 19-foot Seacraft boat, which was recovered on March 18 by crew members of a Norwegian freighter who noticed a part of the vessel’s debris floating in a shipping channel 100 miles off the Bermuda coast. The boat’s ignition and battery switch were both in the “off” position, prompting many to question what really happened on that fateful day.
Photos of the switch and debris from the missing Florida teens’ boat was captured by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
“The battery switch was hard to get to and two people on a boat in distress or in a horrible storm wouldn’t do that,” McBride said.
He added that it’s entirely possible “somebody wanted to immobilize the boat for a time so they could handle in such a way that they could turn it over.”
Guy Bennett Rubin, a lawyer for Perry Cohen’s mother, Pamela Cohen, says they know “for sure” that the boat was intentionally disabled because it’s not easy for anyone to access the battery switch and turn it off. Rubin said the switches wouldn’t just turn in the off position “by the passage of time, the current, and other events.” The family attorney wants forensic experts who specialize in accident reconstruction to examine the vessel and determine what happened.
“Maybe the most logical explanation is the storm, but maybe they were abducted. Or maybe there was foul play because they had thousands of dollars’ worth of reels,” Rubin surmised.
McBride supports that theory when he says both boys came from prominent families known for charitable giving, and it was known that they left the dock with expensive fishing rods, reels, and gear. Someone with bad intentions might have recognized Cohen and Stephanos.
“Two small kids on a boat in the middle of nowhere would be a prime target,” McBride said.
A video was released a few days ago by ABC News of Perry and Austin pulling out of Jupiter Inlet.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 30, 2016
FFWCC General Counsel Harold Vielhauer refutes the argument that the ignition switch couldn’t be turned off. He said that he’s seen circumstances in which wave actions and other environmental factors have turned those switches off.
Captain Jimmy Hill, a veteran maritime industry professional and founder of the Southeast U.S. Boat Show, theorizes that if mechanical issues arose while on the water, the boys may have turned the battery and ignition off to save energy and fuel while trying to fix possible issues.
McBride points out that if the boat was capsized, some DNA evidence should’ve been present over the battery switch. This would be the case “even if it was in the water and even if it was handled by the Norwegian crew,” McBride said, adding, “they wouldn’t disturb” any evidence present on the boat.
FFWCC officials insist that this investigation is not a criminal case, nor has it ever been. They consider it to be a boating accident and a missing persons case.
“There is no criminal investigation. There is nothing to suggest that this was anything more than an unfortunate accident,” Vielhauer said at a hearing held last Friday.
Pamela Cohen and Nicholas Korniloff, who is Perry’s stepfather, explained that they were sworn in as witnesses in a “criminal investigation” when interviewed by the FFWCC in October.
Case documents released in April hold up to that statement. Individuals and family members who interviewed with investigators were required to sign a form titled “Recorded Statement Outline.” The form contained a section with an affidavit that required the investigator to print his or her name and the line “I am conducting a criminal investigation.”
McBride believes that a complete forensic analysis of the boys’ iPhone’s recoverable data and the boat will yield more details that could push this case into a criminal investigation. The boat is currently being transported to Port Everglades to be taken into custody by the FFWCC for further analysis.
McBride thinks that the missing Florida teens’ case “this should be treated as a homicide in a coastal city in Florida” until evidence proves to the contrary.
[Image via Twitter]