The last time that Bonnie Grogan saw her 35-year-old daughter Tammy alive, the cruise ship Imagination was somewhere in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Bonnie had blacked out during a gathering of friends and relatives in Tammy’s suite, which was odd because she hadn’t drunk any alcohol that night.
The next day, Tammy was nowhere to be seen. At first, her family thought she was entertaining herself somewhere, but when the ship finally docked in Florida and she still hadn’t appeared, they became concerned. Then by the time they told the ship of her disappearance, a full 32 hours had passed.
The information desk put out a page, but no one responded. Sadly, the Imagination had traveled more than 400 miles since Tammy was last seen. That meant it was too late to send out a search party. Instead, the Coast Guard contacted the Mexican authorities, who sent a message to vessels in the area. But Tammy was never found.
The cruise had begun just four days earlier. Departing from Miami on September 7, 2006, the Imagination plied a course across the Caribbean Sea, calling at Key West in Florida and the port of Calica on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It was on the return leg that Tammy mysteriously vanished.
Cruise firm Carnival describes the Imagination as “a ship designed to pay tribute to fantasy and ancient legends.” It is, in fact, a 70,000-ton floating entertainment hub complete with cocktail bars, night clubs, burger joints and taco stalls. Meanwhile, it requires some 900 crew members to keep the ship functioning.
Tammy, who worked at a dental surgery in Toledo, Ohio, had been traveling with a few companions, including her mother and her 14-year-old son, Jimmy Fleischmann. In fact, it had been Fleischmann’s extravagant male friend, 25-year-old Craig Morgan, who had generously gifted the cruise to the Grogans.
Morgan himself did not join them, but his sister Rebecca did, along with her ex-boyfriend Robbie Pantosia. The gift was controversial, though, because Tammy had banned her son from having anything to do with Morgan. Talking to WTOL News in 2010, Bonnie described Morgan and Fleischmann’s relationship as somewhat over-friendly given her grandson’s age. “Touchy-feely” were her exact words.
In fact, throughout their “friendship,” Morgan had showered the boy with gifts and attention, taking him on limo rides and lavishing him with jewelry – including no less than 23 watches. However, these lavish displays of affection were unsettling for Tammy.
We may never know for sure, but perhaps Morgan’s gift of the cruise was intended to sweeten Tammy up. Whatever his motivations, the Grogans were apparently suspicious of accepting it. Morgan, however, insisted. “Craig had a way of taking your mind away from you,” Bonnie subsequently told WTOL News in 2010. “He kept drilling things into you…”
Tammy subsequently accepted the cruise and, according to a Coast Guard spokesman, was last seen alive at around 1:30 a.m. on September 10, 2006. She had apparently spent her final hours drinking in her cabin with her family and friends. But how, why, where and exactly when she disappeared from the ship is a mystery.
Disappearances on cruise ships are, in fact, a relatively common occurrence. According to Cruisejunkie.com, some 165 people went missing from cruises between 1995 to 2011. It’s thought that the majority of those cases are suicides and tragic accidents. However, as time passed after Tammy’s disappearance, Bonnie became increasingly suspicious that something more sinister had taken place.
That night, she had been in Tammy’s cabin. She claims she herself did not drink any alcohol – but that when she drank a glass of water given to her by Fleischmann, she blacked out. “Next thing I know, I wake up in bed 11:00 a.m. the next morning and I was in my robe,” she told NBC24 News in 2008.
Bonnie alleges that she was secretly given Rohypnol, a powerful sedative said to be ten times stronger than Valium. The drug’s notorious reputation stems from its use by rapists who spike their victims’ drinks with it, rendering them immobile and often with little or no memory of what has gone on.
In 2010 WTOL News reported that forensic experts did find evidence of Rohypnol in Bonnie’s drink, but that claim has not been corroborated by other outlets. A more widely reported claim is that Morgan did some research on Rohypnol, as evidenced by a handwritten note found by investigators.
Morgan’s explanation was that Rebecca, his sister, had been suffering from insomnia and he had been looking into possible cures. Now although Rohypnol can be used to treat sleep problems, it is in fact outlawed in the United States. However, it can be purchased in pharmacies in other countries such as Mexico.
Ultimately, according to NBC News, Bonnie believes that her daughter was drugged and thrown overboard by Fleischmann. She believes that her grandson was brainwashed by Morgan to murder his mother so that they could be together. Furthermore, she has since broken off all contact with everyone she traveled with.
In a disturbing twist, Tammy’s apartment was broken into while she was away on the trip, although there were no signs of forced entry. Among the items stolen was the jewelry gifted to Fleischmann by Morgan as well as a hard drive. Of course, though, the break-in may have been entirely unconnected to Tammy’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, Fleischmann himself went missing in 2009. After living with his paternal grandfather for more than two years, he graduated from high school and fulfilled his life-long dream of enlisting in the military. But on September 29, he went AWOL from Fort Benning in Georgia, and then he never finished his basic training.
It is not known whether or not Fleischmann has been in touch with his family in the intervening years, if he reunited with Morgan or whether Bonnie finally got any closure. It is known that Fleischmann’s father died unexpectedly in 2014 at the age of 46, marking another tragic episode in his family history.
Meanwhile, the FBI has wrapped up its investigation and referred the matter to a cold-case unit. And while it seems doubtful that a 14-year-old boy could be convinced to murder his own mother, there remain many puzzling and suspicious aspects to this case. That said, we may never know the truth.