Jim Friedman is a local news photographer who has worked the police beat for years. He blogs about Cold Cases. This entry is about Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone, Jr. who disappeared without a trace four years ago.
This case can be solved with a phone call.
Did they make it to Richard's noticeably huge, dark-colored 2001 Dodge Dakota pickup truck with a NASCAR sticker on the back? Maybe, but it's never been found. Police did not find suicide notes, fingerprints, blood, or victims. Their ATM cards and cell phones have not been used since the two disappeared.
Detectives have the same question we all do, how?
Without witnesses there's not much to go on except character profiles. What kind of people are Danielle and Richard? Would she leave her newborn son and run off with another man? Danielle's estranged husband Joseph Imbo tells me, "Absolutely not." What about Richard? His family believes he would never abandon his daughter, in fact his love for his daughter, Angela, is tattooed on his arm.
Danielle's estranged husband Joseph Imbo now lives in North Carolina with their son who just started kindergarten. Joe Imbo was in Toms River, N.J. at the time of the disappearance. He cooperated with authorities, even going through a polygraph. Published reports say he was uncooperative, but he claims otherwise, "I have to live with this on a daily basis." He says for the last two years he hasn't heard from the authorities and when he calls to inquire about his wife's case, they tell him there is nothing new. "I have been waiting, but it's been four years. It's like she disappeared." Imbo admits to a conversations between Petrone and himself. He says he was going through a "rough time" during the breakup with Danielle but, he says he never threatened their lives. Both Danielle's and Richard's families sparred with accusations to one another and insinuated Joe Imbo had something to do with it, "They're dead wrong," Imbo tells me.
Here's a story NBC10's Denise Nakano did on the two-year anniversary of the couple's disappearance. She talked with Richard's mom. Watch and then scroll down for the FBI's take on the case.
Imagine trying to put a 100 piece puzzle together with 18 pieces. This would be very frustrating, and the feeling is mutual with the detectives involved. "This case can be solved with a phone call," says FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver. I spoke to him just as he put out a press release from the Citizens Crime Commission regarding a $50,000 reward for information regarding the couples whereabouts.
"We will ultimately solve this thing. We are not giving up," Agent Klaver said.
The reward has reached $150,000. Maybe this can help someone remember. Early on, police searched the Delaware River looking for Petrone's truck. Marine units found many submerged vehicles, but nothing to link to this case. There has been speculation that it was an organized crime 'hit.' A police source told me they checked many known areas in the city where evidence as big as a truck could have been ditched, but obviously struck out. The Delaware River is a big place.
The FBI now believes this case is a murder for hire. "We are actively following some leads, but cannot release details." Interesting, considering the "hit" speculation.
This vanishing act is intriguing to say the least. Danielle and Richard, by all accounts, were two grounded people. Both worked and were very close with each other and their families. Each had children of their own whom they cared for very much. Family members and children want answers to some serious questions, and one kindergartner in North Carolina who will eventually have many questions to ask his father. What will he tell him?
If you have any information regarding the whereabouts of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone, call the FBI at 215-418-4000 or the Citizens Crime Commission Tip Line at 877-345-TIPS or 215-546-TIPS. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
YouTube video from the DanielleImbo.com: