BRADENTON, Fla. - The mystery of a Bradenton boater's disappearance has become much closer to being solved, thanks to the keen eye of a fisherman. A body was found a half-mile south of Emerson Point, attached to an anchor in very shallow water.
Manatee County investigators tentatively believe it's the body of Patrick Mullins, who vanished after heading out on his 17-foot Stumpknocker on Jan. 27.
"The body was actually out toward the middle of the river," said Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office. "You can go from the channel, which is extremely deep, to off the channel, which could be two to three feet of water. And that's where this body was."
Mullins was an experienced boater, and many of his friends and relatives were baffled how he could disappear out on the water.
The Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission both spent days in the search, but it was called off after scouring more than 2,000 square miles.
Mullins was the media specialist at Palmetto High School, where students and faculty have been anxiously awaiting word about the search. Today's news about the body discovery was disappointing, as many were hoping Mullins would be found alive.
"Everybody was coming up with crazy stories," said Nicole Postma, a junior at Palmetto High. "They just really wanted them to find him," she said.
Tarek Jaffal, a high school sophomore, said word about the discovery spread fast.
"I think it'll help people move on," Jaffal said.
An autopsy on the body is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Investigators said they hoped to make a positive identification then.
Meanwhile, a memorial for Mullins has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon, following class at Palmetto High.
"A lot of students, they really liked him," Postma said. "He made the library and everything a fun place."
The Mullins family released the following statement:
"The family of Patrick Mullins is in mourning. We request your understanding and compassion in giving us our privacy at this time. We wish to thank from the bottom of our hearts all the many loving and concerned individuals and organizations that have contributed their efforts and resources to resolving his disappearance."