By Lisa Redmond
and Robert Mills
TOWNSEND — The man who sought donations to pay for the investigation of a 32-year-old missing-persons case says he has bowed out because his background stirred a cloud of suspicion.
Robert R. Reinhart of the Missing Persons Special Investigation Unit, a private, for-profit business, reported on Tuesday that Missing Persons has stopped soliciting, after putting in 482 man-hours searching for Deborah Ann Quimby.
On May 3, 1977, Quimby left a note for her parents saying she was bicycling to her grandparents’ home on Vinton Pond, but never arrived. Police have chased leads on Quimby’s disappearance over the years. In the summer of 2004, they partially drained and dredged Walker Pond over 38 days after getting two letters urging the water be searched. Police did not find any new evidence,
Recently, Reinhart approached Anne Quimby, Deborah’s mother, about investigating the case, but she was unable to pay the $5,000 fee, Reinhart said. Instead, he tried to solicit donations, but the company never received a penny, Reinhart said.
Anne Quimby could not be reached for comment.
Police Chief Erving M. Marshall Jr. said he learned about Missing Persons after residents called the Police Department reporting solicitation letters.
Marshall issued a press release last week in which he states he spoke to Reinhart, who provided information that legitimized the company. Marshall wrote that he was impressed with the information Reinhart provided and with Reinhart’s enthusiasm in closing the case.
But Reinhart said he is distancing himself because he doesn’t want his background to taint the investigation.
Specifically, Reinhart’s background includes three federal bankruptcy cases — 1989, 1999 and 2006 — all of which are closed. He also is involved in two active civil cases, in Lowell Superior Court and Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge.
Reinhart is named as a part of a 2009 lawsuit brought by Steven A. Belmonte regarding a Web-based agency — GetScouted.com — that connects people with talent scouts.
In the 2008 case, Susan Warford, of Dracut, told The Sun that Reinhart allegedly reneged on a contract worth tens of thousands of dollars by purporting to sell her stock in his daughter’s company.
Reinhart’s daughter invented a “thigh pack,” similar to a gun holster, that can be used for carrying video games and other valuables, according to a 2002 CBS News story.
Reinhart said his legal troubles are the result of retaliation by a former wife, an angry ex-girlfriend and a disgruntled former employee — his son.
“I didn’t do anything to con or scam them,” Reinhart said. “My past is not great, but it is like a lot of people.”
“We are trying to do some good,” Reinhart said. “But I don’t want Missing Persons to get a bad name because of me.”
Missing Persons’ Web site, www.mpsiu.com, boasts that it has “cold case specialists” — essentially subcontractors — but Reinhart admits his background is in “sales and business development.” He is not a licensed private investigator. His specialty is determining human behavior.
Reinhart, who lives in Newton, said Missing Persons is run from a “virtual office” in Washington, D.C.
Reinhart said Missing Persons was formed three months ago, and after preliminary investigations chose to focus on Quimby and missing University of Massachusetts Amherst student Maura Murray. The company Web site now lists seven “investigations,” including the 1982 missing-person case of 17-year-old Judith Ann Chartier, of Chelmsford.
Marshall said that if anyone donated to Missing Persons or has any information about the case, they should contact him at 978-597-2313.
Marshall stressed that Townsend Police are not working with Reinhart or Missing Persons.
However, Marshall sent a Dec. 18 e-mail to Reinhart suggesting they meet with the state police to ensure that “everyone was on the same page” and that Townsend Police investigations into the Quimby disappearance and the 1973 Judith Vieweg (a Townsend teacher) murder are not compromised.
Marshall said the exchange of information was a one-way street. He listened to the information Reinhart provided, like he would any tipster.
Jessica Venezia, spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office, “Mr. Reinhart has no association with this office. However, we welcome any and all information that might be helpful to solve a crime.”