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Phone found in Darryl Fornatora case

WEST PALM BEACH — The family of missing surfer Darryl Fornatora confirms that the local tennis pro’s phone has been found in the Dominican Republic.

It is just one aspect of several new elements to the case.

Fornatora vanished at the end of January during what was supposed to be a week long surfing vacation with his friend Matt in Cabarete on the northern coast of Dominican Republic.

Many questions have swirled around the case. Fornatora’s family has been left little information in the more than three months since the avid surfer was last seen.


Nancy and Gilbert Fornatora, Darryl’s parents, confirmed to CBS12 Monday that their son’s phone was found in a rental car used by Darryl and his friend Matt.

“It raises a lot of questions about the time period prior to discovery of where the phone was and who was in possession of it,” Gilbert Fornatora said.

Darryl’s parents say the phone was found in February in the backseat of the rental car, returned by Darryl’s travel mate Matt, who returned to the U.S. without Darryl.

The information on the phone had reportedly been wiped, erasing any potential information, before being reactivated.

“It seems that an employee found it in the car and kept it for a couple of days and then when it wasn’t claimed, he gave it to a friend who took off all off the data from it, wiped it and gave it to his girlfriend,” Nancy Fornatora said.

Investigators from the U.S. and Dominican Republic were reportedly locked in legal disputes in efforts to retrieve records from the phone companies. It was weeks later after the phone being found, that family members say they noticed an alert on Darryl’s online account with his cell phone company, saying his phone had been deactivated. This allowed authorities in the Dominican Republic to track the phone down to an acquaintance of the rental car company employee.

While there may be little information to glean from the phone, Darryl’s parents say it release yet another wave of new questions.

“It’s very curious, the phone being found in the backseat of the car,” Nancy Fornatora said. “We have more question and few answers, and it’s very frustrating.”

There have been few clues in the case.

Only after CBS12 traveled to the Dominican Republic in March and our stories started airing, Darryl’s wallet washed up on a beach, leading to further questions.

The wallet contained nearly $400 in American cash that also appeared to have had a bullet hole in it. The wallet also contained Darryl’s Florida’s drivers license and credit cards.

CBS12 spoke by phone Monday with Osvaldo Bonilla, the district attorney overseeing the criminal investigation. He told us there is no new information but says they are focusing their search on the area was Darryl’s wallet was found.

Follow up water searches turned up nothing and Darryl’s family is now convinced that his disappearance has nothing to do with the water, contrary to other suspected theories by some who live in the area.


Authorities in the Dominican Republic have not named any persons of interest. That’s is why CBS12 is choosing not to report Matt’s last name.

Darryl’s parents say Matt did meet last week with investigators who traveled to Palm Beach County from the Dominican Republic.

“Matt answered questions in both cases, which makes us extremely happy, however our questions haven’t been answered and we’re hoping Matt remains cooperative and we feel he will, I do believe he would answer questions again if asked,” Nancy Fornatora said.

CBS12 has tried to reach Matt, but have been unable to contact him.


Unwavered by the mounting questions, Gilbert and Nancy Fornatora say they are remaining focused on finding out what happened to their son.

“The pain of not knowing, not understanding what transpired in that 48 hours, it’s not even two days and gone, no trace,” Nancy Fornatora said.

They’ve since hired renowned private investigation firm Beau Dietl & Associated, based out of New York.

“Resources are limited and we felt that having the help of this firm is going to further our search,” Nancy Fornatora said. “We’re very hopeful they’ll be able to help the efforts that are already on going.”

The family of Darryl Fornatora is also continuing to run a Go Fund Me page in hopes of continuing private search efforts and investigation.


May 9, 2016

Category: DR News |

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Last updated January 21, 2018 at 12:31 AM
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