Remains found of man missing since 2001

(Original publication: July 9, 2004)

KENT — Diana Oakley's greatest wish, to see her husband return home after disappearing in March 2001, was dashed Wednesday after two men found the skeletal remains of Thomas Oakley on the site of the old Dreamwold Inn.

"It's been a long journey, almost 3 1/2 years," an emotional Oakley said yesterday. "I always hoped he would come home. I guess he is home. Just not here."

Kent police, who responded with members of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, said Oakley killed himself. A handgun, one of several registered to the dead man, was recovered at the site, police Lt. Alex DiVernieri said.

"I hope this brings some closure for the family," he said.

Shaun Boyd, a driller with Boyd Artesian Well Co. in Kent, and property owner Mario De Acutis said they were checking a well pump house on the 21-acre parcel shortly after 11 a.m. when they found the remains. The pump house is about 1 1/2 miles from the Oakleys' Horsepound Road residence, up a long driveway from Gipsy Trail Road.

Oakley, who was 39 when he disappeared, had been depressed over losing his job as a carpenter as well as the deaths of family members including his father, his wife said in 2001. Diana Oakley last saw her husband March 28, 2001, when she left for her job as a cafeteria worker in the Carmel schools. Police and firefighters, with a helicopter and a search-and-rescue dog team, scoured the area for him.

The Dreamwold parcel has been vacant since the restaurant — known for its fine dining and views of the West Branch Reservoir — was destroyed by fire 11 years ago today. At that time, the Dreamwold had been closed for two years and was being renovated to open in the summer.

The county foreclosed on the property, selling it in 1998. The owners won a lawsuit on the grounds that the county did not give appropriate notice before foreclosing, said David Fiveson, a lawyer for the corporate owner, West Branch Development.

Fiveson said a suit seeking damages is scheduled for trial in August. De Acutis and Boyd were examining the well to help value the land, he said. De Acutis, who lives in Ossining, said West Branch Development planned to subdivide or sell the land.

Finding Oakley's remains was a big shock, said De Acutis, 79.

Boyd, 35, said the pump house is a small shed, about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, overgrown with weeds. The door is about 4 feet high. Oakley's remains were atop a holding tank, he said.

Diana Oakley, 51, said yesterday that both sides of the family were devastated. The couple were married in September 1994 and had been together for seven years before that. She has two grown children from a prior marriage.

"We're going to miss him forever because he really was such a wonderful man," she said.

As of yesterday no date had been set for a memorial, said Oakley, who works in the Carmel High School cafeteria and is working this summer at Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.

Thomas Oakley was very involved with Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where he played the trumpet.

"He loved the Baptist church, and he was just a kind person, and he loved to plant flowers and he loved to garden," she said. "He could make anything. He took scraps of wood and turned them into a shed in the back yard."


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005