The family of a 64-year-old Estero woman, who has been missing for 10 days, made a heart-wrenching plea Tuesday for any information about her mysterious disappearance.
About four months ago, shortly after the death of her husband, Mary Ann Zarb moved to a small community, The Villages of Country Creek, in Estero. Described as a warm, caring person, she was making friends, her family said Tuesday afternoon during a press conference at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
But friends and family have not seen nor heard from Zarb since April 11, which is highly uncharacteristic of the woman who spoke to her children daily and doted on her dog who was left behind, her family and investigators say.
“It’s like a nightmare we never woke up from,” said Zarb’s daughter Julie Temperly, choking back tears.
To add to the uncertainty of Zarb’s disappearance, last Friday deputies found four people at her home in the 20000 block of Country Club Drive and arrested them on a variety of drug charges.
Zarb’s son, Ed Zarb, of Knoxville, Tenn., last spoke to his mother April 10. Everything was fine. She was looking forward to his upcoming visit in May with some of her grandchildren.
Son Greg Lewis, who lives in the suburbs of Dearborn, Mich., talked to his mom the day before and they discussed a fifth-grade camping trip.
Now her family is offering a $5,000 reward through Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers to anyone who will come forward with information leading to their mother’s whereabouts.
Zarb is described as a white female with blondish red hair and blue eyes. She is 5-feet-4 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds. Authorities are asking anyone with information on Zarb’s whereabouts to call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 477-1000 or, to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).
On Tuesday, Temperly, who lives in the Dubuque, Iowa, area, flanked by Ed Zarb and Lewis in addition to Zarb’s daughters-in-law, made a tearful plea for someone to come forward to give information about their mother.
“She loved all four of her sons and me, her daughter,” Temperly said. "But she lived for her eight grandchildren. Please help us find our mom. Our family just wants our mom back.”
Investigators want people who live in Estero and Cape Coral to remember back over the last week to 10 days and report anything they may have seen, no matter how minor it may seem.
Investigators found four people at her house on Friday, the day deputies were asked to check on Zarb. A deputy found Zarb’s car, a white Ford Escape in the driveway. He also saw a man inside snorting something white from a table.
The four were arrested and deputies impounded Zarb’s car.
Shane Steven Simpkins, 24, of the 2000 block of Northeast 34th Terrace, Cape Coral, the one who was seen snorting a substance, according to the arrest report, and was charged with possession of cocaine.
Three others also were arrested: Tiffany Marie Sipp, 17, on drug charges, Stephen Patrick Smutney, 19, for resisting arrest, and Nicole Rae Durden, 18, of the 7500 block of Suncoast Drive in North Fort Myers, on paraphernalia charges. Sipp and Smutney list the same address as Simpkins.
Meantime Lewis, Zarb’s son, told investigators Simpkins, a contractor, should be at the home.
Sipp and Durden told NBC-2 that Zarb had hired them to do some remodeling.
“She let us use her car and we watched her dog for her,” Durden told NBC-2.
“She said she’d just see us later and up and left,” Sipp added.
Her dog is now being cared for by a family friend.
Ed Zarb says his mother was a real estate agent but had not worked in a while as she took care of her husband, George “Ed” Zarb, who died a year ago.
When asked what his mother’s hobbies were, Ed Zarb said: “Walking her dog.”
Ed Zarb, who reminds people that his mother was very healthy and active, doesn’t believe she left Southwest Florida.
“We don’t have any reason to believe she’s anywhere but here,” he said.
E-mail Valli Finney at email@example.com