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Clam boat catches body in fishing net off Barnegat Light
By ANDREW JOHNSON Staff Writer, (856) 794-5111

BARNEGAT LIGHT - The remains of a decomposed, mostly skeletal body will be picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard in Barnegat Light today and transported by a county coroner for identification, Coast Guard officials said Saturday.

The 64-foot commercial fishing boat Miss Maddy radioed officials at 3:30 p.m. Thursday to say they had caught the body in their net, Group Air Station Atlantic City Petty Officer John Edwards said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Sokolis, of the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Barnegat Light, said he would be there to meet the boat, which is expected to arrive at Viking Village here this morning.

He said he believed the body was picked up more than three miles out to sea, but was unsure of the exact location.

Coast Guard officials declined comment on whether the body found might be that of an Atlantic City man who disappeared late last month off another fishing boat about 20 miles offshore. Timothy Stark, 37, was last seen Feb. 25 on the ESS Pursuit, a clam and scallop boat.

Edwards said Saturday that he was unsure of where the remains were found in relation to where Stark was lost.

"At this point, that's all still under investigation," he said. "We'll know more (today)."
 

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Remains found by fishing vessel may be A.C. man
By BRIDGET MURPHY Staff Writer, (609) 272-7257, E-Mail

ATLANTIC CITY - Nancy Titus will never forget what her son, Timothy, said as she dropped him off at the Maryland Avenue docks last month before his clam and scallop boat was to head out to sea.

"He said, 'Mama, see you when I get back. Love you,'" the city woman remembered Monday.

It was the last time mother and son would speak. For the past month, Timothy Stark, 37, was presumed dead after going missing off the 165-foot vessel Ess Pursuit on Feb. 25.

A 10-hour Coast Guard search of the Atlantic Ocean about 20 miles offshore was unsuccessful after Stark's shipmates notified rescuers at 3:30 a.m. that the man - whom someone last saw about three hours before that - was missing. Titus knew in her heart then that her son was dead.

"I kept hoping that his body would show up," she said Monday.

Now, she believes it has.

Last Thursday, crewmembers of the 64-foot commercial fishing boat Miss Maddy radioed the Coast Guard to say they had snagged the remains of a decomposed, mostly skeletal body in their nets while about three miles off Barnegat Light. The boat is based in the borough and owned by Mayor Kirk Larson

The crew then found a wallet after another net drag, according to Coast Guard officials. The wallet belonged to Stark, said his mother and Ocean County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Gasser on Monday.

While authorities have said it's probable that the remains are those of the resort man, who lived at the Regency high-rise in the 500 block of Pacific Avenue with his mother, Titus said Monday she knows that the body is her son's.

Stark had a metal plate under one of his eyes and more metal plates in his back that were implanted after accidents. Now, authorities are working to compare serial numbers on plates found in the remains with the numbers on the plates that were in her son's body, Titus said.

"The medical examiner has not made this official yet," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Rodney Rios said Monday, when asked whether the body found was Stark's.

But as authorities continue their investigation, Titus is focusing on how to memorialize her son's life. A funeral service will be held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church on April 21. Titus then wants to scatter her son's ashes off the New Jersey Avenue beach.

It would be a fitting tribute for a man who loved the sea, she said Monday.

Stark was born in Pittsburgh and came to Atlantic City as a teenager, when he began working in the casinos. Besides fishing, he was a talented car mechanic and a fan of professional car racing. Life wasn't always easy for Stark, whose death was preceded by his father's and some of his siblings, but his mother said he clung to the family he had.

"He always called me, every day," Titus said. "But most of all, when he came home and I was up, he gave me a hug."

Authorities have said there is no evidence of any foul play in connection with Stark's disappearance, although city resident Arlene Ciambrano, a close friend and former roommate of Stark's, said she had misgivings immediately after he was reported missing at sea, saying Stark complained to her that he had argued with some of his shipmates.

A Coast Guard spokesman has said that authorities investigated, but found no evidence that the disagreement was a big deal, saying Stark's shipmates reported that he returned to vessel drunk and loud a few nights before they left and they just told him to sleep it off.

Ciambrano met Stark in 1995, when they both worked at Resorts Atlantic City. She said Monday that he worked his way on to the clam and scallop boats by first operating a forklift and then being a watchman at the docks a few years ago.

The woman said her friend often would speak of the risks of making a living on the ocean.

"It's a very depressing thing. He told me he was going to die at sea. He talked about it because it was a dangerous job," Ciambrano said Monday from her Lighthouse Plaza apartment, where her closed shades blocked a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean.

"I don't even want to look at the water," Ciambrano said, remembering how Stark visited her on Valentine's Day and gave her a bunch of red silk roses.

It was just the kind of thing Stark would do for those he cared for, his friend said.

"I had a good guy," Titus said Monday, holding back tears. "My son was good."
 
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