Crime

Who stole this dead fisherman’s remains from a car at the bar?

Capt. Bill Curtis, called the “Master Guide of Biscayne Bay,” by photographer and fisherman Pat Ford, pioneered saltwater flat fishing in South Florida. He was an expert in bonefishing and spent 50 years as a flat fishing guide. A box containing his ashes was stolen from a parking lot outside Flanigan’s restaurant in Coconut Grove on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.
Capt. Bill Curtis, called the “Master Guide of Biscayne Bay,” by photographer and fisherman Pat Ford, pioneered saltwater flat fishing in South Florida. He was an expert in bonefishing and spent 50 years as a flat fishing guide. A box containing his ashes was stolen from a parking lot outside Flanigan’s restaurant in Coconut Grove on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

Bill Curtis was considered a hawk-eye at spotting the elusive and skittish bonefish. The guide spirited songwriter Jimmy Buffett and Buffett’s brother-in-law, novelist Thomas McGuane, out on the waters and shared his expertise.

Now, the fisherman’s family hope some hawk-eye on land is able to find his remains.

READ MORE: Legendary bonefish guide Bill Curtis dies at 91

Bill Curtis’ ashes were stolen from inside a 2016 Chevy Silverado pickup truck that was parked at Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill at 2721 Bird Rd. in Coconut Grove, around 5 p.m. Sunday.

The truck’s owner, Dennis Dara, was having dinner with friends at Flanigan’s when someone broke and popped the passenger window out of its frame. The thief reached inside the truck and grabbed a box containing Curtis’ ashes off the front seat. Nothing else was stolen or disturbed — not Dara’s laptop, which was sitting on the console, or an expensive Pelican case used to protect cameras on the water.

A Flanigan’s kitchen employee told Miami police and Dara that he had seen someone in a black-hooded jacket running from the direction of Dara’s truck. The figure got into another black pickup and took off.

“Bill, to me, was like my father,” a distraught Dara said Monday morning. “I knew Captain Bill longer than my own dad. He was a great guy. I told George [Curtis’ son-in-law] I’ve lost my dad and now I’ve lost Bill, literally twice, when he passed and now this.”

Dara, a family friend who is helping handle the estate, had bought Curtis’ famed yellow flat boat, the Grasshopper, to preserve it a couple years ago as the guide’s health began to fail. Curtis died Oct. 24 at 91.

Curtis had spent more than 50 years showing others how to spot, catch and release the prized bonefish. The Grasshopper was such a presence on Biscayne Bay that local anglers referred to the spot on the oceanside of Old Rhodes Key as “Curtis Point.”

This is where family and friends planned to scatter Curtis’ ashes, from the Grasshopper, in early December. Bad weather delayed that outing and George Bacon, who is married to Curtis’ daughter Nancy Curtis Bacon, said they were to try again in April.

“You know, Bill was somewhat of a character,” Bacon said. “We left his ashes in his house in front of the TV by his lawn chair. Was appropriate. But with the house on the market we knew people wanted to come in and we didn’t think that was appropriate so Dennis said he will take custody of the ashes and we’d go in April. Bill was riding in the front seat next to Dennis and got hijacked.”

The box containing Curtis’ ashes had a light chocolate-brown lid, black leather-like bottom, quilted look, Bacon said. The family believes the name of the funeral home was on the inside of the box: Strickland Funeral Home and Crematory of Crystal River.

There were no family feuds to explain the theft of ashes, Bacon and Dara said. “Either they got spooked or I was walking up on them,” Dara said. “I stayed out all night long looking in every dumpster and garbage can all the way to my house in Coral Gables. I can’t believe it.”

Bacon added: “I’m a strong Christian. Not sure I believe in karma but can you imagine all the evil energy with all his friends focused on whoever that is who stole Bill’s ashes? They’ve got to be living in a karmic hell.”

Miami police are investigating. The family asks anyone with information to call Dara at 786-355-0258 or Bacon at 352-563-7721.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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