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Human Interest

Family of Perry Cohen, Missing at Sea, Responds to Child Neglect Claims: I’m a ‘Grieving Mother in Search of Answers’

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On the heels of a controversial report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Pamela Cohen, mother of 14-year-old Perry Cohen who went missing at sea nearly two years ago while fishing with his friend has released a statement, via attorney Guy Rubin.

The report found that Carlson “Carly” Black, mother of Austin Stephanos, also 14 at the time of the Tequesta teens’ disappearance, showed “egregious lapse of judgment” and may have violated Florida’s child abuse and neglect laws when she allowed the boys to take Austin’s “minimally equipped” 19-foot 1978 SeaCraft offshore from South Florida’s Jupiter Point. Black also waited more than two hours after realizing that the boys were missing to notify Pamela and never notified law enforcement or emergency officials.

The statement reads:

“Pamela Cohen is a grieving mother in search of answers to her son’s disappearance.  Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) concluded its investigation into the disappearance of Perry J. Cohen and his friend Austin.  The new revelations in the FDLE report paint a stark picture, one characterized by a calamity of errors in judgment and missteps that could have potentially averted this tragic loss of life.  As she and her family process the FDLE report and new information regarding the boys’ disappearance, Ms. Cohen requests her privacy be respected.

“While appreciative of efforts by FDLE and FWC, important questions remain unanswered and the actions of those involved must be held accountable.  Since the active phase FDLE’s investigation, Ms. Cohen continues to be forced to defend her legal rights in a federal maritime action brought by Austin’s mother, Mrs. Carly Black.  That court action seeks to limit the value of all losses, including the lives of Perry and Austin, to $500.00, and would restrict Ms. Cohen’s legal rights to further seek justice.  Ms. Cohen is committed to pursuing the truth in a manner that affirms her rights as a parent and respects the life and memory of her son, Perry, and his friend Austin.”

Steven Martine Photography/Courtesy Cohen Family

FDLE investigators found that the boat lacked basic safety and communications equipment, including GPS, EPIRB and radio or communications devices – this despite Black and her husband, Bubba Black, owning a marine supply company and having full knowledge and access to such equipment. Such equipment, along with timely notification of the boys’ failure to return before a storm hit the area “would have made a successful rescue infinitely more probable,” the report reads.

WATCH: Mom of Teen Missing at Sea With Friend Showed ‘Egregious Lapse of Judgment,’ Report Concludes

The FDLE’s report accompanies another by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which concluded that the boy’s disappearance was weather-related.

Coast Guard

Austin and Perry vanished into the waters off South Florida’s Jupiter Inlet on July 24, 2015. The tragedy ripped a void in the lives of two families and an entire coastal community.

 

 

The last known communication from either of the boys occurred at 11:24 on the morning of their disappearance, when Austin texted Black and his father, Blu Stephanos, Black’s ex-husband.

“What’s up? I am checking in. I’m just out here fishing,” the text read.

The teens remain listed in the National Database for Missing and Exploited Children and investigators say they’ll continue to investigate any new leads.

Both families operate foundations that carry their sons’ names and focus on water safety education and legislation. The Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory, an outdoor classroom concept, is planned for Jupiter Community High School, where Perry would have graduated in 2019.