The estranged wife of a missing 77-year-old Glynn County man believes he was the victim of a 12-foot-long alligator that resides in the waters surrounding his live-aboard sailboat, a possibility that authorities have not dismissed.
Larry Thall was last seen Sept. 19 aboard his sailboat at the Hidden Harbor Yacht Club community on the Troup Creek. Thall was reported missing Sunday to Glynn County police after having not been seen or heard from in a week, a police spokesman said.
Police issued a public notice for assistance in finding Thall on Monday, giving a physical description and noting that he had possible dementia and additional health issues. His vehicle was located on the grounds of Hidden Harbor, located at the end of Yacht Road on the Troup Creek.
Victoria Thall told The News on Thursday morning that she believes her estranged husband was killed by an alligator. She said there are signs of a struggle outside of the sailboat as if a person tried to climb back inside.
Groceries, including tomatoes and bakery cookies, were found outside the boat’s cabin, she said, indicating he did not plan to go anywhere. Shoes and his vehicle’s keys also were found on the boat, she said. He left behind his toiletry kit, too, which he takes everywhere, she said.
“I believe the alligator got my husband,” Victoria Thall said. “There are marks on the back of the boat. If he was going away, that stuff wouldn’t be sitting on the boat.”
Glynn County police detective Kody Begnaud confirmed that authorities have focused the search for Thall in the waters surrounding his sailboat. Begnaud confirmed spotting an alligator “upwards of 12 feet long” in nearby waters.
A Georgia Department of Natural Resources helicopter took Begnaud up for an aerial search of the waters Monday. DNR officials and Begnaud were searching by boat Thursday, according to a DNR official.
Begnaud, in contact with Victoria Thall and other members of the missing man’s family, said there is no indication that Thall’s disappearance resulted from foul play.
“And no indication points to the alligator, but we have not ruled that out,” Begnaud said. “I’m still working on that. We can’t confirm signs of a struggle, but we can’t deny them.”
Victoria Thall said her estranged husband is a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from PTSD. She said he has been on his own for more than 10 years.
She said police reports that he suffered from dementia were inaccurate.
She added that Thall drinks heavily, which may cloud his thought process. She said he went out with a neighbor the night he went missing.
“He went out that night with somebody at the condos, and he drank a little bit,” she said. “He went out to dinner. Larry left the man at the parking lot. He went to his condo and Larry went to the boat.
“Larry has PTSD and he abandoned his family a little over 10 years ago,” Victoria Thall added. “A couple of times we found him, and he would pick up and move again.”
DNR Sgt. Mark Carson said Thall’s disappearance remains a mystery. Underwater sonar scans, aerial and boat searches have turned up no trace of him.
Authorities have spotted a large alligator in the area, but there is no reason to connect it to Thall’s disappearance, Carson said.
Still, the waters around Thall’s boat seem to be the most likely place to search, he said.
After searching by boat Thursday, DNR likely will get its helicopter back up Friday to continue aerial searches, he said.
“That’s the only area we know to search right now,” Carson said. “But we don’t have any evidence that he’s in the water, and we don’t have any evidence that he’s out of the water. We don’t have any evidence that he’s been the victim of an alligator, and we can’t just go around cutting open every alligator we see.”
Thall has blue eyes and grayish-white hair; he is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 175 pounds.
Anyone with information about Thall is asked to call the Glynn County Police Department at 912-554-3645.