After assembling forensic tents in the yard of a missing Florida man, investigators began searching every inch of the property with a dog. It led them to a fire pit. They scanned the area with radar. Then they dug. And what they found buried under a mass of concrete left neighbors shocked and sickened.
Before he disappeared, Michael Shaver, 36, had lived with his family in unincorporated Lake County, south of Clermont. According to one of his best friends, Scott Amatuccio – who spoke to New York-based local newspaper The Daily Star in March 2018 – Shaver was “kind, gentle and smart.” He trained as a commercial pilot, but he had a “dream job” repairing rollercoasters at Walt Disney World.
But in late 2015 Shaver inexplicably vanished. For the next two-and-a-half years, his wife, family and friends claimed not to know where he was. But police were eventually alerted to his disappearance in February 2018. And now the discovery of disturbing clues in the fire pit in his yard may yet solve the mystery of his whereabouts.
Having grown up together in Laurens, New York, Shaver and his wife Laurie had been childhood friends. In fact, the couple started dating around eighth grade. In June 2005, they married. And according to Amatuccio, who had been Michael’s best man, the couple purchased their central Florida home in March 2014. They had two children, a boy and a girl.
Amatuccio contacted Lake County police on February 16, 2018. According to The Daily Star, “something just didn’t sound right” about what a friend had told him. The friend claimed to have visited the Shavers in November 2015, the month after Michael’s disappearance. Laurie allegedly told him that her husband had taken off in a utility vehicle. Strangely, there was also a new fire pit in the yard.
Lake County sheriff’s deputies immediately responded to Amatuccio’s request to check that Michael was well. And initially, Laurie cooperated. When the deputies arrived at her house, she told them she had not heard from Michael since 2015. But when they asked if they could fetch a cadaver dog to investigate a suspicious area of concrete near the fire pit, she refused.
So the investigators returned with a warrant. They brought cadaver dogs and a radar. And then they made their discovery. “I was standing in a neighbor’s backyard pretty close by watching,” said neighbor Tanya Winchester in an interview with CBS affiliate WKMG-TV in March 2018. “I did see that law enforcement kind of circled around the side and took off their hats and it looked like they had said a prayer.”
“We eventually made our way to a fire pit area,” explained Lt. John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in comments made to WKMG-TV. “It was just a shoddy concrete job, poured around this fire pit, so we began focusing our efforts there, and… we found what appears to be a bone that is consistent with that of a human upper arm bone.”
When approached by reporters, Laurie apparently declined to comment on the find. “You can reach out to my attorney,” she allegedly told WKMG-TV in March 2018. In fact, according to CBS News, her attorney, Jeffrey Wiggs, has stated that he and his client are permitting investigators to conclude their search of the property; they are not attempting to obstruct them.
Pending further forensic work, there is no evidence as yet to link the bone with Michael Shaver or anyone else. At this stage, the human remains have not been identified. However, Laurie has been declared a person of interest in her husband’s disappearance.
According to a neighbor who spoke to Channel 9 in March 2018, Laurie had apparently remarried in Michael’s absence. According to the neighbor, a marriage ceremony was allegedly conducted in the part of her backyard where the remains were recovered. But there is apparently no official record of any divorce between Michael and Laurie.
Speaking to CBS News in March 2018, one neighbor, Curt Ruhl, noted the suddenness of Michael’s disappearance. “I’d see him out working in the yard… then all of a sudden he was gone, and some other guy moved in.” In fact, the “other guy” may be Travis Filmer. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Laurie told deputies she had been seeing Filmer since early 2016, and they intended to marry.
Meanwhile, deputies have investigated Michael’s banking and cell phone activities since his disappearance, and they have found no trace of either. In March 2018 Fred Jones of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office told ABC News affiliate WFTV9, “You would think if he was in another state he would need resources in order to live there in order to survive.”
Strangely, according to Michael’s sister, Stacie, his Facebook page has been repeatedly updated since his disappearance. For that reason, his family did not contact the police. “We didn’t want to get the authorities involved because we thought we could find him on our own,” Stacie told the Orlando Sentinel in March 2018. She continued, “We knew that he was going through some marital issues. We thought he wanted to be by himself.”
In a further twist, a man claiming to be one of Michael’s colleagues told WFTV9 that staff at Disney World had attempted to contact Michael after his disappearance. They allegedly received a text message from him telling them he had resigned, and he didn’t want his tools.
Finally, WKMG reports that police records state Michael was arrested for domestic violence in 2014. Allegedly, an argument over a home renovation escalated, and Michael left Laurie with bruises on her biceps. WKMG also claims that a struggle over a gun ensued, and that Laurie struck Michael over the head with it. The gun was allegedly confiscated by the police, and the charge against Michael was later dropped.
After the discovery of a human arm bone on the Shaver property, investigators resumed their search of the fire pit and discovered additional pieces of skeleton. Some clothing was also recovered, according to Lt. John Herrell. These have been submitted to the Medical Examiner’s office for further analysis.
It is not known how long it will take for forensics to identify the remains and establish a cause of death. Various tests are necessary, including DNA tests and dental analyses. “It obviously is a very complicated case,” Lt. Herrell told The Daily Star. “It likely will be a lengthy investigation.”
Meanwhile, Laurie’s attorney has emphasized that inferences should not be made too hastily. Speaking to The Daily Star, he acknowledged that the couple were “very estranged” but also claimed that “a lot of people” harbored bad feelings toward Michael. He has given their names to the authorities.
In the meantime, Michael’s family are hoping for resolution. Stacie told CBS News, “[Michael] is a wonderful caring man who would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it… His two children were his absolute world. He loved his family and we love him so very, very much. We miss him terribly. We are looking for answers…”