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January 4, 2014

Florida Keys have been a place for many to stage their own deaths

MIAMI — Some people come to the Florida Keys to dive the coral reefs or fish for tarpon. Others come to party in Key West. And then there are a desperate few who come to the subtropical island chain for a more sinister activity: faking their own deaths.

“We’ve had so many over the years,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said. “The underlying reason usually is a bankruptcy, a divorce, an imminent arrest or the feds coming down on them.”

And the common lure seems to be all the water — the ocean, the channels, the bay — all plausible places for a body never to be found.

Two such cases surfaced this past week. On Monday, James Alan Dziadura, a Homestead, Fla., family man under investigation for molesting a child under 12, texted his sister to alert her that he was about to jump off the Card Sound Bridge in the Upper Keys. And he would do it with a 40-pound weight tied to his leg.

Four Monroe County dive team members conducted a thorough search of the area under the bridge. A 40-pound weight was indeed found, directly under the location of the cellphone in 8 feet of water. But no body was recovered. While the sheriff’s office is calling the incident a missing person case — for now, Ramsay says he thinks the whole thing was a “hoax.”

The next day, Aubrey Lee Price, a bank director who had left a rambling suicide note in June 2012 that he was going to jump off a ferry going from Key West to Fort Myers, Fla., was found quite alive and well in Georgia after being stopped for driving a pickup with gold tinted windows suspiciously slowly. He had had at least 21 million reasons for others to think he was dead — that’s how much he allegedly embezzled from his bank.

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