Details of Disappearance Eppler was last seen by his mother at approximately 2:00 p.m. on July 29, 1999 in their hometown of Naples, Florida. He went to visit her at her workplace and borrowed $20 for gas. He said he was going to go visit his girlfriend, then go to work for his 4:30 p.m. shift at the Grouper House, where he was a waiter. He also promised his mother he would drop off her dry cleaning.
Eppler never arrived at his girlfriend's house, never did the errand for his mother and has never been heard from again. He left a note on the kitchen counter saying, "Gone to find my river and myself." His mother reported him missing the next day.
Eppler's silver 1988 Toyota Camry was found abandoned in the visitors' parking area at the Coastal Prairie Trail in Flamingo, Florida, about three hours from his home, after his disappearance. This was in the Everglades National Park, in what is described as a wet, boggy, dangerous area. The park receipt was dated July 28.
Authorities found camping gear, a bag full of clothes, a frame backpack, peanut butter, crackers and some journals inside the vehicle. His shirt was found three miles down the trail from where his car was parked. Eppler's mother also stated at least one pair of his hiking boots was missing from home, along with a navy blue hat with a white star on it that he frequently wore.
Eppler graduated from Ely High School in 1997 and was studying zoology at Santa Fe College at the time of his disappearance. He loved animals; he had five pet lizards, seven turtles, a parrot and two dogs, he had volunteered for the Humane Society and Animal Control, and he had worked at several snake farms. He also enjoyed outdoor pursuits and traveling in 1997, and had been to Texas, North Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana.
His case remains unsolved.
- Collier County Sheriff's Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 21, 2011; age-progression added.