[dropcap]R[/dropcap]obert Mayer left his Dix Hills home around 4:30 a.m. on Friday, June 14, in his bright red 2004 Pontiac GTO, the same routine he’s had on countless mornings as an electrician, rising before dawn to get to his jobsite—this time, a massive theater complex under construction in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Around 9 a.m., he spoke with his wife Ida about their weekend plans. Father’s Day was that Sunday, and his mother and in-laws were coming by for a barbeque. Ida told him she’d buy some lobster; he asked her to also pick up some oysters. Mayer loved to barbeque.
They also talked briefly about an upcoming vacation to Italy that they’d been planning for July 7.
“He was happy,” Ida tells the Press. “Everything was good.”
Unbeknownst to her, it would be the last conversation she’d have with her husband of 18 years. Robert never came home that night, and has not been seen since.
His car—which Ida says he “loved”—was discovered the next day abandoned in the Long Island Rail Road’s Deer Park station parking lot. Its keys were missing, the front seat was moved forward closer to the steering wheel than he’d have it, and the trunk, where Mayer typically would keep his tools, lunchbox and water bottles, was empty; the latter found on the front seat.
Ida subsequently discovered Robert’s green mountain bike missing, and found his wallet and $300 cash in a drawer in the garage.
A Suffolk County Police Department spokesman tells the Press detectives do not believe Mayer’s disappearance to be the result of foul play at this stage and that there is an active and ongoing investigation into “all leads.”
Ida, however, fears the worst.
“This is a man who never once spent a night away from home,” she stresses, between sobs. “Not once, not one night in 18 years was he not with me.
“He didn’t like the Long Island Rail Road parking lot because of all the thefts [there],” Ida continues, explaining that they’d go so far as to drive into Queens where relatives lived and hop a subway from there rather than take the LIRR whenever heading into the city. “His car, that was his baby, aside from the family, that was what he loved the most, was his car. He just would never leave it there. To find it there without a Club on it—he wouldn’t park it there.
“He wouldn’t walk away from everything he has, everything he’s worked for his whole life,” she adds, weeping. “He had no reason to—and his children. We have two children. My son is 15 and my daughter is 11. They mean the world to him.”
Their son plays in a band, and Robert, a drummer, attends his shows and helps set up equipment. Their son had a gig on Saturday, the weekend Robert went missing—he just wouldn’t have missed that show, Ida insists.
“I believe that he’s in danger,” she cries. “Something happened to him.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound electrician was last seen around 2:15 p.m. on June 14 at the Arrow Scrap yard in West Babylon—where he sold scrap metal from his jobsite. His cell phone went dead about a half hour later. An Arrow foreman tells the Press Mayer had been a longtime, if sporadic, “customer” of the recycling center.
“He was a nice, well-composed individual,” he said on Aug. 2—exactly seven weeks to the minute of Mayer’s last known visit—but with little other details to offer. “Over the years, he probably came in here every so often to scrap some metal.”
Arrow’s surveillance cameras are aimed at the parking area and the entrance, but the foreman declined to say whether they captured Mayer’s sharp red sports car the day he vanished—a vehicle, said another worker, that would have stood out from the typical daily parade of beat-up pickups and trucks filled with wiring and wreckage that the majority of sellers haul their scraps to the center in. Ida tells the Press that an internal camera did capture Robert that day and “he looked scared. He looked worried.”
“So strange,” said the scrap metal worker, shaking his head and expressing sympathy for Mayer’s family as he clenched the “Missing” flyer.
Workers at Heavy Metal Scrap a few blocks away—the other recycling yard in the area that deals with the type of materials Mayer would have sold—did not recognize him, nor his car, when shown the handout.
About a week after her husband’s disappearance, Suffolk police detectives informed Ida that a neighbor’s camera had recorded what appeared to be her husband’s car by her driveway at approximately 2:41 p.m., June 14, and then showed it pulling out of the driveway 10 minutes later. Only the top of the car was spotted; the driver and/or passengers weren’t. The camera caught Ida’s car pulling into the driveway at about 3 p.m.
Further searching the garage, Ida found Rob’s cell phone, turned off, in another drawer in the garage. The $300 she’d found previously matches the transaction he made June 14 at Arrow, she says.
“It means to me that he came home,” says Ida. “It means to me that something happened.”
“I feel bad for the family,” says Bob Savage, 53, of Port Jefferson, one of dozens of volunteers—many complete strangers—who’ve been searching for answers and trying to raise awareness about the case since Mayer’s abrupt disappearance.
He joined about 60 others on July 7, along with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials and nonprofit Long Island Search and Rescue, scouring 813-acre Oak Brush Plains Preserve at Edgewood in Deer Park. Savage also teamed up alongside about two dozen others handing out flyers and searching for clues and potential witnesses July 21 at the Deer Park train station, which abuts the preserve. He and others have also participated in other, more recent searches.
Savage, a photographer and mountain biker who heard about Mayer’s disappearance from a friend, has been contributing photos he’s taken during the searches to the “Robert Mayer Search Group” Facebook page, which currently has nearly 3,000 members. The page serves as a bulletin board for updates and to strategize future searches, flyer-handout drives and media attention.
Its members span the country. One woman set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the family in Robert’s absence. (They’ve also started a drop-subscription drive against the Island’s lone daily newspaper, which has yet to publish an article on the case as of press time.) Another member, Matthew Berkowitz, has taken to the air.
The 45-year-old filmmaker and adjunct professor at Five Towns College, with the assistance of a team of volunteers, has been using GoPro Drone Quadcopters—remote-controlled mini-helicopters equipped with surveillance cameras—to scour and map the preserve and landfills for signs of Robert.
Berkowitz, with the help of the owners of Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre, has also been mass producing “Missing” flyers and posting them across Long Island. He tells the Press he went to school with Robert and made a commitment to Ida “that I would do everything I could to help, so that’s what I’m doing.
“People are nothing without other people,” he says. “This is a father and a husband. We’ve got to get him back.”
These selfless actions mean the world to Ida, who gets emotional at the mere mention of the grassroots efforts. She calls them “amazing.”
“The community support and just the support of people all over has been overwhelming,” she tells the Press. “Thank God for them, because they’re working so hard to try to find him… They’ve supported me.”
“It helps so much,” she says, weeping. “It gives me hope.”
Local Union 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has also posted the Mayer’s “Missing” flyer on their website. His most recent worksite had been at the Theatre for a New Audience complex on Ashland Place in Downtown Brooklyn’s BAM Cultural District.
Robert Mayer has short brown hair, hazel-green eyes and possibly a beard by now. Mayer was wearing a grey polo shirt with a J.C. Electrical logo emblazoned on it, light blue jeans and black work boots. His left middle finger is slightly chopped off at the tip.
Until there is “concrete evidence” otherwise, Suffolk police will treat Mayer’s vanishing as a missing persons case, Ida says, despite his lengthy disappearance.
Anyone who may have seen Robert or who may have information about his disappearance is asked to call the Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives at 631-854-8252. Mayer’s family is also offering a $10,000 reward.
Ida, who has been completely consumed with grief since Rob’s disappearance, describes her husband as a “homebody” who enjoyed lounging around the house watching TV and playing video games with their children. She said he’s a loving, caring family man who would do anything for his family, friends and neighbors.
“His family is the most important thing to him,” she says, between long pauses and sobs, “followed by his friends. During Hurricane Sandy, he was the one helping everyone set up generators and lending them anything they needed. He was the first one out there, and my neighbors will tell you that.
“Someone out there knows something,” Ida insists, vowing never to give up on finding her husband. “Whether it’s at the scrap yard or at the worksite in Brooklyn, any of the last places he was seen—or the train station. Someone saw something, someone knows something.
“My husband would not just disappear.”