SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The question has always been whether Joe Santi disappeared on his own or did someone cause him to vanish?
Most believe Santi is dead.
In the 1970s, family and friends said Santi was a prominent businessman. He was behind the financing of the Royal Inn which later would be called the Shilo Inn in Salt Lake City.
“He was investing in mine operations, ” said Jason Jensen with the Utah Cold Case Coalition. “He was doing real estate transactions from Carbon County to Salt Lake (and) the west desert. (He was) very active in business.
But suddenly, he disappeared in 1977 and hasn’t been seen since.
A close friend, who doesn’t want to be identified, recalled going into his apartment after learning Santi had vanished.
“There’s a coffee table with an ashtray and a cigarette in it that had been put out,” said the friend. “Joe never smoked. So I knew it wasn’t his. And there were his shoes sitting in front of the couch.”
Santi wasn’t there. His friend said Santi’s jewelry and cash were gone, but he’d left behind his watch.
Police later discovered Santi’s three vehicles were still parked outside.
According to a police report, police were “investigating a missing person who is presumed dead.”
The friend was with Santi at a Salt Lake City tavern the day before he disappeared.
He said Santi wanted to buy 100,000 dollars worth of coins at a discount from a stranger. The friend claimed Santi wanted him there to appraise the coins.
“Joe goes up to the bar and throws his cash all over and (says) ‘okay here’s the money. Where are the coins?'” the friend recalled Santi telling the bartender.
The bartenders knew the stranger and called him. But the stranger never showed up according to Santi’s friend.
“So Joe says ‘what do you think?'” the friend recalled. “I said ‘I think you’re being setup.'”
Later than night, Santi called the friend to tell him the deal was back on. He told Santi to be careful.
The next day, Santi disappeared.
“It was obvious to me that he was being robbed,” the friend said. “He obviously knew who it was.”
But police didn’t have enough evidence to prove Santi had been robbed.
The police report showed police had gathered a “plastic vile containing unknown substance.” They wanted it tested to see if it was “human blood” belonging to Santi.
To date, there’s no information whether it was Santi’s blood.
Other theories of his disappearance emerged. He allegedly embezzled about $300,000 from the Royal Inn and he was suspected of leaving the country.
The day after he disappeared, Santi was scheduled to testify against his brother and others in a multi-million dollar stock scam.
“Did someone want to silence him from testifying at the trial?” Jensen said.
Recently, Jensen discovered Santi’s brother and others charged in the bogus stock scam were arrested in Florida.
Jensen suspected Santi’s remains could be buried there. The Utah Cold Case Coalition has a forensics laboratory that can test DNA. He said they’ve offered the Naples Police department to test the remains at their facility. He said they have not heard back from police.