The night Thomas G. Demyon vanished two years ago, he had just cremated his father and hoped to inherit the old man's estate. Within hours, he planned to take control of the company his father once ran.
But that night, Demyon was a poor man without even a phone -- a gambler whose only income came from a small business in financial shambles, whose disappearance would leave Baltimore County police baffled.
Demyon's pager beeped as he and his wife, Cynthia, watched news of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation at his father's Timonium condo that evening, Jan. 13, 1997. In a bedroom, their son, Gregory, then 7, played a computer game.
The pager -- Demyon's tether to the world from the condo, where the phone had been disconnected during his father's illness -- showed the number of his lawyer, followed by "911," a code alerting him to call immediately.
Wearing only a coat over his bare chest and leaving without his partial denture, the 47-year-old man drove quickly in the bitter January night to a pay phone he regularly used at the nearby Days Inn. He took no money or identification.
He did not come back.
The last trace of him was the voice-mail message left on the machine of his Towson lawyer, John Austin, who says he did not page his client.
In nearly two years, police have found neither a body nor physical evidence of a crime, although Demyon's blue Pontiac was recovered in a scruffy city neighborhood weeks after the disappearance.
Six months after Demyon vanished police, acting on a tip, pulled up the floorboards of a Fells Point bar looking for his body. They used dogs trained to sniff for corpses. They found nothing.
No credit card charges have been made, no faraway visits to old friends, no sightings at favorite gambling spots such as Trump's Castle or Bally's in Atlantic City, N.J., where Demyon had been treated to free rooms and meals in the months before he disappeared.
Though they initially suspected a connection between Demyon's gambling debts and his disappearance, detectives now dismiss that possibility, but they refuse to discuss possible suspects or motives.
"We're looking at all aspects of his life, including his business activities," said county police spokesman Bill Toohey.
Business in shambles
The business activities of Thomas G. Demyon and his father, Thomas R. Demyon, were unorthodox, to say the least. They supported themselves and fed their gambling habits with cash that flowed from an invention that's smaller than a doorknob.
Called a "Safety Sight," it was created to monitor fluids in truck engines and was invented by the elder Demyon, a man with an eighth-grade education.
The unimpressive-looking device, made of glass and brass, was cheap to make and easy to assemble in Tomkar Corp.'s Timonium office. It brought in more than $400,000 a year.
But Tomkar was in financial disarray. Its accounting system and tax returns were indecipherable, and the balance sheets didn't balance, according to Orphans' Court testimony after the elder Demyon died and the son disappeared.
When the elder Demyon was incapacitated by a stroke in April 1996, his business partners discovered that the son had siphoned $58,000 from the business, routing incoming checks to a post office box and depositing the money in an account unknown to the partners.
But Austin, the younger Demyon's lawyer, said his client took the money because he was worried someone in the company may have been routing checks to at least one other secret address.
Court order bans son
Nonetheless, the business associates got a court order Dec. 11, 1996, temporarily banning the son from the company. The order was to expire Jan. 13, 1997 -- just hours before the son disappeared.
The battle over the company was compounded after that New Year's Eve, when the elder Demyon died of heart failure at age 81. His will left most of his estate in a trust for Gregory, his only grandchild, and named two business associates to administer it. Only 20 percent was left to the older man's only child.
The son immediately contested the will in Orphans' Court, hoping to gain control of the estate.
On the night of Jan. 13, things were looking up for the younger Demyon. He was confident he would win his battle over the will. And he was poised to take control of Tomkar. "We were ready to go into work the next day," said his wife.
That changed when her husband left hastily to answer the page.
While police continued to search for the younger Demyon, his father's debts piled up. Lawyer James Klair was appointed by the Orphans' Court to liquidate property and pay the estate's bills.
Klair concluded that the company should be sold at a "fire sale" price of $218,000. It was, he testified, "the worst example of a business I have ever seen. A lot of money that should have gone into his corporation went for traveling to Las Vegas."
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