George “Skip” Zelaya
Missing since: 01/13/05
Missing from: Homosassa,FL
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date of Birth: 05/22/43
Age at disapperance: 61
Height: 70 inches
Weight: 150 pounds
Hair Color: Brown
Hair (Other): Gray at temples
Eye Color: Brown
Glasses/Contacts Description: Reading glasses.
Identifying Characteristics: Growth on left pinky finger, minor scars on hands and arms.
Jewelry: Silver “Timex” watch.
Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. George was last seen at approximately 6:00pm at his residence in the vicinity of the 5700 block of S. Seotter Path in Homosassa, FL. His white, four door, 1988 Lincoln sedan was located the following day at a shopping center off of Hwy 19 in Homosassa, FL.
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office
Phone: (352) 726-4488
Please visit his website: http://www.findgeorgeskipzelaya.com/
Daughter continues search for missing father
Five years later family wants closure
Kathleen Howarth used to dream about hugging her father again.
But since his disappearance five years ago, the hope he’s living has faded.
“I really don’t believe he’s alive,” Kathleen said.
Today, she yearns to be able to bury her dad’s remains, but even then she admits many questions will continue to linger.
“We can get his body and bury it, but then what? How did he get this way? Why is he gone?” she asked. “There never will be closure.”
And for Kathleen, she said, that is the most troubling part.
— — —
George “Skip” Zelaya left his Homosassa home on South Sea Otter Path around 6 p.m. Jan. 13, 2005. The last person to see him was his ex-wife, Paula Zelaya, who lived with him.
Nothing seemed unusual, Paula told law enforcement, but for reasons unknown, George never returned home. Three days later, Paula called George’s brother, Joe Zelaya, to see if he had heard from his brother. Joe, who lived in Crystal River, said he hadn’t spoken to his brother, so Paula said she was calling the police.
Two days elapsed and Paula spotted George’s white, four-door Lincoln sedan sitting in the parking lot of the Publix Supermarket in Homosassa off U.S. 19. Nothing was found in his car except his wallet, which was missing everything but his Social Security card and photos, Kathleen said. His watch, keys and cell phone were found on a table in his house.
Hundreds of miles away, Kathleen and her husband were taking a break from the chaos of the Washington, D.C., area at a friend’s home in Montana. Usually, she said she would have been with her father at the time he went missing, but she decided to take her friend up on the gracious invite. Therefore, she called her father before the trip and promised him she would see him in May, but a week later she received a call from her little sister telling her that their father was missing and no one knew where he was.
Ever since, she’s been searching for any clues to her father’s disappearance. Actively joining missing persons organizations and submitting materials to DNA databases, she remains optimistic that something will materialize.
“I, myself, have been the power behind getting my dad’s story out,” she said. “I am hopeful.”
— — —
Kathleen resents anyone who could suggest her father intentionally disappeared and could be living a new life somewhere else.
A Jan. 25, 2005, entry in Joe’s journal, which he kept during his brother’s disappearance, read in part:
“Went to mailbox. Received a couple of envelopes from Skip. One contained his driver’s license and check card, the other envelope contained three checks to be deposited and a check to me for $2,000, along with a note that there should be $1,300 left after the check. Note states, verbatim: ‘After you cash this there should be about 1,300.00 left use the card pin … or use the checks. Remember, you’re on the account too. Sorry. Skip.”
Paula also received an envelope, which Kathleen said contained an audio tape of recorded conversations Paula had with friends about vacations and dates she had gone on with other men.
Kathleen admitted she doesn’t know what to think of the packages, but believe they in no way suggest her father left deliberately.
“That’s just absurd,” she said. “I know my dad wouldn’t leave me or my siblings. I know he adores us all.”
Wholeheartedly, Kathleen said, she believes her father was murdered. Though she has considered the notion that he might have committed suicide, she quickly dismisses it.
“He wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye,” she explained.
— — —
With today being the five-year anniversary of George’s disappearance, Kathleen reminisced about the times she would spend with her father.
“It’s been a very lonely five years,” Kathleen said.
Though she only spent about two to three weeks every year with her dad, she said at 41 years of age, she still is, undeniably, a daddy’s girl.
“I was just the proudest girl to be with my dad,” she beamed.
Even when he would tell the same story repeatedly, she said she didn’t care. She just loved spending quality time with him. It’s the one thing, she says, she misses the most.
Kathleen acknowledges her family is no closer to finding George today than they were the day he went missing, but she still prays for any type of lead that could guide her to her father.
In the meantime, she said, she and two of her sisters will go to church together today, have lunch and release some balloons while they console each other over a loss they can’t make sense of and wish never happened.
“We miss being with him,” Kathleen said. “Our father was our everything,”
ON THE WEB
— To learn more about George “Skip” Zelaya and his disappearance, visit http://www.findgeorgeskipzelaya.com.
If you have any information on this case please contact CUE Center For Missing Persons using the contact form below or contact Cue Center at (910) 343-1131 24 hour tip line (910) 232-1687.
All information submitted to CUE Center For Missing Persons is confidential.