A legal specialist has weighed in on what he thinks might have happened to the two Florida teens who went missing at sea last summer.
“I think there’s a 60 percent chance of foul play,” Beverly Hills-based criminal defense attorney Mark McBride told People magazine.
Two 14-year-old boys, Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, set off from an inlet in Jupiter, Fla., on July 24, 2015, when a storm hit. It is believed that the boys and their boat succumbed to the storm. Their boat was found in March 2016, months after extensive searching.
McBride, however, pointed out the discovery of the boys’ 19-foot boat, recovered by members of a Norwegian ship, leaves too many unanswered questions.
Photographs taken by the crew show that the boys’ ignition and battery switch were in the “off” positions, People reported.
— Sun Sentinel (@SunSentinel) April 27, 2016
“The battery switch was hard to get to and two people on a boat in distress or in a horrible storm wouldn’t do that,” McBride said.
He added that “somebody wanted to immobilize the boat for a time so they could handle in such a way that they could turn it over.”
An attorney for Pamela Cohen, the mother of Perry, previously said that “we do know for sure that boat was disabled intentionally because the battery switch, which is very difficult to get to, was in the off position.”
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) April 26, 2016
“That can’t be maneuvered by the passage of time, the current, and other events. We want forensic experts in accident reconstruction to look at the boat and tell us what happened… Maybe the most logical explanation is the storm, but maybe they were abducted. Or maybe there was foul play because they had thousands of dollars’ worth of reels,” he said.
Photos of the boys’ boat were published last week by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, or FWC.
FWC General Counsel Harold Vielhauer said the agency has seen instances in which the water and wave actions and other environmental factors could have turned the switches off. The agency has said that no foul play was involved.
“There is no criminal investigation. There is nothing to suggest that this was anything more than an unfortunate accident,” Vielhauer said last week.
Captain Jimmy Hill, a longtime maritime industry professional, said it’s possible the boys may have turned the battery and ignition off to save fuel and energy while trying to figure out what to do next.
But, he stipulated, “If the boat was capsized, there should be DNA evidence all over the boat, all over the battery switch, even if it was in the water and even if it was handled by the Norwegian crew. They wouldn’t disturb any evidentiary value on this boat.”
He said that because the families of the two boys are prominent in the area, thieves or people with bad intentions may have gone after them.
“Two small kids on a boat in the middle of nowhere would be a prime target,” McBride said, adding they had expensive fishing rods and gear.
Meanwhile, an iPhone belonging to one of the boys will be sent to Apple for analysis, ABC News reported According to a lawyer, the firm “has already agreed to take in the phone” to analyze it for answers.
It will be delivered to Apple’s headquarters in Cuptertino, Calif., via FedEx for forensic examination.
The iPhone, which belonged to Austin, “potentially holds the key to answer a question that a mother desperately needs answered,” the lawyer for the Cohens said. “And let’s be clear, your honor, the boys are not declared dead.”