Editor’s Note: This article is part of a feature called Follow-up in which BDN staff update stories from the past to inform readers of the status of subjects covered in initial reports and any new developments.
NORTHPORT, Maine — Almost seven years ago, Jeremy Alex disappeared in the woods of Northport under mysterious circumstances.
Despite a $20,000 reward for information on his whereabouts, his family is still left with many questions, no answers — and no Jeremy.
They hope that a television program about him that airs Monday night on the Investigation Discovery channel’s series “Disappeared” will change that.
“There’s not too many things left to do that will spark an interest again,” his father, Ted Alex, said Friday from Portsmouth, N.H., where he lives. “We’re optimistic … Hopefully, somebody will call and give us some information.”
Jeremy, a landscaper who was in the process of moving to Northport from Islesboro, was 28 when he last was seen running into the woods off Pound Hill Road the evening of April 24, 2004. Although the disappearance was treated initially as a missing-person case, his family believes that the man they describe as kind and a free spirit may have been murdered.
Over the course of the investigation, authorities found that Jeremy had used cocaine and heroin on the day he disappeared.
“My personal opinion is that Jeremy was the victim of foul play,” Alex said. “He got himself in over his head. I think that was the result.”
Elizabeth Fischer, the executive producer of the series, said Friday that Jeremy’s story struck a chord with her team.
“He seemed to really touch the people deeply who knew him well, whether it was family or friends,” she said. “This was not a person who had a mild impact on people.”
Producers came to Maine for a week in October to interview people who knew Jeremy and also to shoot a re-enactment of the disappearance. Over the three seasons that the series has run so far, Fischer said that at least one missing person who had been featured was found.
One of the last people known to see Jeremy was a Pound Hill Road woman who once had worked at Belfast Area High School, which he had attended.
She called the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office on April 24 to report that a disoriented man had suddenly appeared in her backyard with money clasped in his hand. He told the woman someone was after him, Ted Alex told the Bangor Daily News in 2007. When the woman’s husband tried to restrain Jeremy, he broke free and ran into the woods.
Deputies found Jeremy’s car nearby, but were unable to locate him. A search was mounted immediately, but nothing was found. After the public was notified that Jeremy was missing, a second witness recalled seeing a man who matched his description run across Route 1 near Northport Marine at about the same time. That area also was searched extensively, but nothing was found.
For years, there were no more reliable clues, Ted Alex said last week. But about 2½ years ago, Jeremy’s driver’s license surfaced at a home on the shore in Northport along with a story of missed opportunity.
In 2004, a Northport couple was building a house on the ocean, and about a month after Jeremy disappeared, money started washing up onshore. Workers found about $30 in all, according to Alex.
About two weeks after that, Jeremy’s driver’s license washed up, too.
The couple had a bowl on their coffee table that was filled with everything that had floated in on the tides, and they put the license and the money in that. They never made the connection to the missing man.
After the husband died, friends came to a get-together after his funeral. A retired highway patrol officer saw the driver’s license in the bowl and remembered hearing about Jeremy Alex.
“He called the police,” Ted Alex said. “He ended up e-mailing me about it, saying ‘I have $30 of Jeremy’s money and his license,’ which was obviously really bizarre.”
Lt. Jason Trundy of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the case, which now has the Maine State Police as the lead investigating agency.
“The case is still open. It’s still under investigation,” Trundy said.
According to Alex, as soon as he heard about the discovery of Jeremy’s license, he went to Maine every weekend to search the area.
He found nothing.
The $20,000 reward, too, has led to nothing more tangible than rumors, he said.
“We’ve obviously had a lot of people ask about it, with bad intentions,” Alex said. “It’s kind of the underbelly of things. We’ve dealt with each one. We need a body. That’s basically what it comes down to.”
He remembered his son as a nice guy who struggled with addiction but loved snowboarding, chess, music, gardening and Maine.
“About a month before he disappeared, he had talked about buying some land,” Alex said. “He was a free spirit. He worked for Greenpeace for a long time in California. He traveled, but I think Maine was his home.”
After Jeremy’s disappearance, Alex began the Jeremy Alex Fund through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which has $170,000 in it now.
“All that money goes back into the community for kids at risk, and kids in general,” Alex said.
Among other endeavors, they have used the money to purchase chess sets for more than 800 Seacoast New Hampshire fourth-graders. The fund also has provided music scholarships for low-income students, he said, describing it as the “one positive thing” that has come out of the time since his son went missing.
“It just splits the road,” Alex said. “You’re obviously never the same.”
Anyone with information about Jeremy Alex should call Trundy at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office at 338-2040.
For more information, visit www.jeremyalex.com.
The Jeremy Alex episode of “Disappeared” will air at 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, on the Investigation Discovery channel, 104 for Time Warner Cable subscribers, 285 for those with DirectTV, 192 for those with the DISH Network.
If you have an idea for a Follow Up story, please contact Editor-in-Chief Mike Dowd.