Family, FBI Asking for Help in Closing Year-Old Kidnapping Case

Investigators asking for public's help in closing Robert Wiles' kidnapping case.

March 3, 2009, 3:32 PM

March 4, 2009— -- The FBI says it is close to solving a year-old kidnapping case, but needs the public's help to find the "missing piece."

In the 11 months since Robert Wiles disappeared from his job at his family's aviation business in Lakeland, Fla., the FBI has narrowed down one "key suspect" and other "individuals of interest," Special Agent Dave Couvertier told

"We're looking for a little bit more information," he said.

The FBI knows exactly what kind of information it needs, Couvertier said, but agents aren't giving specifics for fear of tipping the suspects off.

"We don't want those who are responsible for his disappearance to know what we know," Couvertier said. "We know that they are still in the area."

But what they are releasing is that the people connected to Wiles' kidnapping had intimate knowledge of the personal and business dealings of Wiles and his parents, Thomas and Pamela Wiles. Couvertier said the suspect or suspects were "affiliated with the business or somehow did business with them."

"Not just one person is involved in this," Wiles' mother, Pamela Wiles, told "There are going to be people who have information."

Wiles, who was 26 when he disappeared and would have since turned 27, was last seen on the evening of April 1, 2008, at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport outside Tampa. He was due to catch a commercial flight to Dallas the next morning for a business meeting but never got on the plane. He left numerous personal items behind, including his computer, his truck and his bag.

Thomas and Pamela Wiles discovered a ransom note, the contents and location of which the FBI has not released, and quickly began preparations to meet its demands, but communication was never established between them and the kidnappers.

Couvertier said they were prepared to pay the sum demanded in the note, but authorities believe that the deal may have been soured because too much time had passed between the kidnapping and the discovery of the note.

Today, they are offering a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who took their son.

And they're also offering to help anyone who has information but may fear retribution from the kidnappers. That includes a promise to help the informant set up a new life or a new identity.

"My question to someone that does have information is what are your needs? ... What can we do so you can step forward?" Pamela Wiles said.

'We're Going to Find Him'

Thomas Wiles described his son as a natural born leader who was well-liked wherever he went. Though he makes a few slip-ups every now and again, Thomas Wiles was careful to use the word "is" when describing his son, not "was."

"Some day he's going to show up," he said, adding that the family has no reason to believe he's no longer alive. "We're going to find him."

While the Wileses said that looking at their son's pictures in the days and weeks after his disappearance produced immense waves of grief, they forced themselves and their daughters to keep his images prominently displayed.

"It was very hard to look at his pictures without breaking down," Pamela Wiles said.

They put his pictures and his favorite visor under the Christmas tree last year and have been maintaining his home in Melbourne, his truck and his boat.

Wiles, an avid hunter and fisherman and a licensed pilot, didn't appear to have enemies, Couvertier said. That's why the FBI is asking anyone to come forward if they have heard anyone say anything negative about Wiles, his family or his family business.

"We want the people who have him to understand they made a mistake," Thomas Wiles said. "We want him back, and we're not going to hold a grudge."

Wiles, the oldest of three children, worked for the family-owned National Flight Services as a business development manager, meaning he was charged with bringing in new clients. Registered out of Ohio, where Thomas and Pamela Wiles live, the company does maintenance and repair work at airports in Florida, San Antonio, Toronto and Toledo, Ohio.

The company Web site hosts an online missing poster of Robert Wiles, with phone numbers and a company e-mail for anyone who has information.

The Wileses said they do not fear for their own safety or that of their daughters, ages 18 and 25, as the FBI assured them they are not in danger.

"Robert is a good citizen," Thomas Wiles said. "He's the kind of guy we want more of in this country."

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the FBI's Tampa office.