Search takes officials to Dumpsters

East Manatee woman missing since Friday

Herald Staff WritersJuly 3, 2007 

— Authorities on Monday searched various parts of the county - including in Dumpsters - based on leads that have surfaced in their investigation of the disappearance of Susan Fast.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies were reported sifting through the contents of Dumpsters behind Gecko's restaurant, 7228 55th Ave. E. and at the county landfill on Lena Road.

"It didn't really turn out to be anything," said Dave Bristow, spokesman for the sheriff's office. "As we get information, we may be searching some areas, which includes some Dumpsters. It has obviously something to do with her disappearance."

The search revolved around "information that an individual who could be involved frequented certain areas or certain places, things like that," Bristow said.

It has been more than three days since Susan Fast, a local contractor, has been reported missing from her Tara home near the restaurant.

Liz Sullivan said she was at Gecko's for lunch with her son around noon Monday when several deputies drove up in their cruisers, with an Emergency Medical Service ambulance, a Waste Management garbage truck and another vehicle following.

"The waitresses, myself and other people in our area (of the restaurant) thought, 'Oh, my God, they found the body,' " Sullivan said.

She said two television station vehicles also showed up and started videotaping what the deputies were doing.

"We were watching them go through the trash," Sullivan said. "It was just gut-wrenching."

After about 10-15 minutes, the deputies finished one Dumpster, then moved down to the next one, she said.

The tag to Susan Fast's SUV had yet to be found Monday, along with her large black leather purse, Bristow said.

He said investigators were concentrating their search for the 60-year-old woman in East Manatee, although her Lexus sport utility vehicle was found in a East Bradenton neighborhood early Saturday morning.

The likelihood the woman was still alive Monday was grim.

"We would like to think so," Bristow said. "We're also being realistic, and there's a lot of things in this investigation that are pointing to foul play. We certainly have hope."

Authorities continued to investigate whether Fast's stepson, Thomas Fast, who reportedly was the last to see the woman, was involved in her disappearance.

"We wish we could find that out, if he's in fact involved in it," Bristow said. "The reason we want to talk to him is he's the last person who saw her alive."

Thomas Fast, 52, was being held in Manatee County jail on a concealed weapons charge.

Bail for Thomas Fast was raised from $2,000 to $100,000 on Sunday morning, after a sheriff's office detective presented evidence to a judge.

According to court records, Det. Ricardo Alvarado told Circuit Court Judge Paul Logan that he spoke with Thomas Fast on Saturday morning and that he admitted being in his stepmother's SUV.

Thomas Fast arrived at Gecko's on Saturday morning, where his car was parked, in a taxicab carrying a black duffle bag, where deputies were doing part of the investigation.

When asked if he was carrying any firearms, he told the investigator that there was one in the duffle bag.

The deputies arrested Thomas Fast for carrying a concealed weapon with an expired permit.

At the bail hearing Sunday, it was disclosed that Thomas Fast was awaiting a July 23 trial in North Carolina on two weapons charges.

Alvarado told the judge that blood was found in Susan Fast's home in the 7500 block of Bird's Eye Terrace in Tara.

He also said steak knives were found in the dishwasher, which her husband, Bruce Fast, said was unusual.

Thomas Fast told Alvarado that he was in the Tara home and had done some laundry.

Alvarado found two throw rugs from the kitchen in the washing machine, according to court records.

At the bail hearing, the public defender assigned to Thomas Fast cautioned him several times to only answer the questions and not provide any details.

When the judge asked if he had any family locally, Thomas Fast said, "My family pretty much turned on me."

He may have been referring to his father, Bruce Fast, who called the sheriff's office when he arrived home from a trip to the Bahamas early Saturday morning and found his wife, Susan Fast, was not home.

Bruce Fast told the Herald on Sunday that his wife's disappearance came after months of threats from his son, who was diagnosed as suffering the mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, 20 years ago.

Neighbors in the Fast's quiet community off of Tara Boulevard in East Manatee knew little about Susan, they said Monday.

Tracey Morgan has lived in her home a few doors down from the Fasts for two years, about as long as the couple has lived in the home.

Morgan said conversation was limited to friendly hellos.

"She walked her dog, quite religiously in fact, every morning," Morgan said.

Neighbor Evan Peterson said he and his wife arrived in Florida from Texas for the season late Saturday. They drove up to their home to find several police vehicles stationed outside the Fasts', which is two doors down.

Peterson said he noticed the vegetation that had previously enclosed the Fasts' lanai in the rear of their home had been trampled.

Peterson met Susan Fast once at a Fourth of July party about two years ago.

"They're very quiet people," he said.

- Herald Staff Writer Stacey Eidson contributed to this report.

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