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Arrest of Fugitive Refloats ’81 Case of Missing Yacht : Crime: One suspect is taken into custody in Hawaii. Authorites were told that two women were aboard when vessel allegedly sank. Second suspect is still at large.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The decade-old mystery of what happened to the 51-foot yacht Freedom II and two women reported missing from the vessel has resurfaced with the FBI’s arrest of a fugitive in Hawaii.

Robert Dozier, 44, was taken into custody on April 19 on on the island of Hawaii on a warrant naming him as a grand theft suspect in the case of a yacht falsely reported missing from a Wilmington slip in June, 1981.

Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Espinoza said Tuesday he plans to fly to Hawaii next week to return Dozier, who has waived extradition.

According to Espinoza, FBI agents found Dozier after a lengthy search touched off by a tip received from a television viewer who saw the case profiled on the NBC-TV series “Unsolved Mysteries.”

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Authorities still are seeking a second man, 54-year-old John Paul Russell, Espinoza said.

On Nov. 13, 1981, Dozier and Russell, both formerly of Las Vegas, were found in a cove near Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco. The two men said they had struggled ashore after a freighter hit and sank their yacht in heavy weather. They said two women on board were missing.

Neither of the supposed victims, identified as Russell’s wife, Suzanne, and Kristen Tomlin, 19, were found, and searchers could find no trace of the Freedom II.

Within days, authorities expressed doubts about the sinking story. Then the two men disappeared.

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Authorities later claimed that the matter involved insurance fraud. They connected the case with the reported theft in Los Angeles of a yacht owned by Doug Reinertson, then a 46-year-old investigator with the Las Vegas public defender’s office.

Reinertson was charged with insurance fraud, accused of falsely reporting that his yacht Inspiration had been stolen, and was convicted, according to authorities. Also, around that time, insurance fraud warrants were issued for the arrest of Russell and Dozier.

Los Angeles Police Detective Rex Shields, who later retired, theorized then that the Freedom II was actually Reinertson’s yacht, on which he had collected $110,000 in insurance.

Shields said in November, 1982, that Dozier and Russell took the Inspiration to Richmond, repainted it and had it registered at as Freedom II.

Espinoza took over the case after Shields’ retirement.

The tip that ultimately led to Dozier’s recent arrest was a telephone number for Russell’s missing wife in Hawaii, Espinoza said Tuesday. In searching for her, he said they found Dozier.

But no trace of Kristen Tomlin has ever been found, Espinoza said.


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