MANATEE — The man suspected in the disappearance of his stepmother asked a judge Wednesday to transfer his case to the federal courts.
The request took place during a bond hearing for Thomas Fast, 52, on a charge of stealing a vehicle belonging to his stepmother, Susan Fast.
"I don't know if this is appropriate," Fast told Circuit Judge George Brown on a video hookup to the Manatee County Courthouse. "But can you transfer this whole mess to federal court?"
Brown told Fast he didn't have the authority to do that.
Fast said he wanted the transfer because he has a relationship with the FBI.
"I've been working with the FBI for years," he said.
Susan Fast was reported missing June 29 after her husband, Bruce Fast, returned to his Tara home from a trip to the Bahamas. Her SUV was found abandoned in an east Bradenton neighborhood the next day.
Brown set Fast's bond at $1,000 for the grand theft charge. He was already being held at the jail on a $100,000 bond for a concealed weapons charge.
He was arrested June 30 when he returned in a taxi to his pickup truck that was parked in a shopping plaza near the Tara home.
Bruce Fast has said his son suffers from a mental illness and that he may be involved in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Fast.
"I'm pretty well torn up about it," he said Wednesday. "But I have to keep working to help take my mind off it."
To cope, he sent out a request for volunteers to help search the area where a location-tracking unit indicated Susan Fast's SUV had been driven the night she disappeared.
Fast said this is an opportunity for people who have said they want to help. They can show up at 8 a.m. Saturday at the southern end of Lorraine Road in Sarasota County.
"We want to get full coverage of the area," he said. "The sheriff's department cannot give the thing as thorough a look as a large group of people can."
He said there is a need for at least 200 volunteers to cover the 250-acre site about a mile south of University Parkway.
"We have a number of construction people who said they will show up," said Fast, who along with his wife of 33 years owns Construction Team Management LLC.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office also will have deputies at the site Saturday.
"We met with Mr. Fast," said Dave Bristow, spokesman for the sheriff's office. "We're on board with it and we'll be out there."
Bristow said the sheriff's office searched the area earlier in the investigation by air, on foot and with police dogs.
"With more people looking, we certainly hope something can be found," he said. "The first time, something may have been overlooked."
Carl Mario Nudi, staff reporter covering the city of Palmetto and northern Manatee County, can be reached at 745-7027.