NBC 10 I-Team: Family of missing URI grad searching for answers 10 years later
In the fall of 2008, Wojciech Fudali was 22 years old and full of ambition.
He graduated from the University of Rhode Island earlier that year, spoke four languages, and had a lot of friends.
The muscular surfer was no longer the shy 5-year-old with the funny name -- pronounced Voytek -- who left Poland for western Massachusetts.
"He told me, 'I think I'm coming back home, but I'll let you know Saturday.' And that's it. I didn't see him anymore," said Anna Fudali, his mother.
On Dec. 6, the day he was supposed to call his mom, Fudali was reported missing from a home on East Shore Road in Narragansett. Friday night, he and some friends hit a local party and a popular watering hole. Friends would later tell police that Fudali wasn’t using drugs and had just one glass of wine.
In the days leading up to his disappearance, Fudali’s friends noticed that he seemed a bit "standoffish," according to police reports.
He talked about a simpler life and would try a diet of bread and water.
He increasingly began underdressing for cold days.
Friends noticed he left his shoes off.
The day before he vanished, he was stopped by police on Newport's Cliff Walk. He wasn’t wearing any shoes and was "inappropriately dressed for the weather and distraught," said police.
Around 3 a.m. on the morning Fudali was reported missing, police made a well-being check on one of his friends, Burton Wilkins, who was renting the home on East Shore Road. Little did police know they'd soon be looking for Fudali.
Other than Wilkins, Fudali's friends that night included Zachary Diamond, Shawn Casey, and Caroline Kirby Madden.
The group told police they were awakened by loud noises sometime after 5 a.m. They saw Fudali naked, hitting himself with a metal pole from a bed frame, saying, "Trust me." An ambulance was never called.
"Maybe he had some problems and I didn't know," said Anna Fudali, who told the NBC 10 I-Team she wondered why no one called for help.
Wojciech’s family knew he was on anti-anxiety medication. But his roommate told police he had recently quit cold turkey. Could that explain his strange behavior?
When the group finally woke up around noon Dec. 6, Fudali was gone. His wallet, $86 in cash and clothes were left behind.
Police K-9s searched the cove and nearby marsh. Nothing turned up. Detectives ruled out foul play.
"No, there was no evidence in the residence that indicated anything like that," said Detective Lt. Scott Vellone of the Narragansett Police Department.
Shortly after his disappearance, witnesses in town came forward with sightings of Fudali. One neighbor, Kevin Kosko, told police he saw a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt sitting on a dock behind one of the houses on East Shore Road the morning Fudali went missing.
Another URI student at the time, Adam Woellner, said he was driving down Galilee Escape Road around 11:30 a.m. Saturday and noticed a man jogging in the marsh, who fit Wojciech’s description, and appeared to be naked or wearing only underwear.
Fast forward to 2018.
Bill McIntosh walks the marsh off Bluff Hill Cove with his Australian cattle dog, Ruby River. He's not a police officer, just a guy who has helped find missing people before.
"Until I do locate something that brings closure to the family, I want to keep looking," he said.
Like McIntosh, others are revisiting the cold case.
"It interested me that a grown man could reportedly run out of a house naked on a cold winter day and just vanish. I mean, how does that happen?" said Terry Weber Mangos, who is the director of Missing in New England.
Her group is helping the Fudali family do one of two things: find Wojciech or his remains.
"If he did sustain a head injury by his own hand or someone else's, he could have run off, disoriented, maybe homeless somewhere and not even knowing his own name," said Mangos, who helped the family search Boston homeless shelters after a possible sighting of Wojciech.
Anna Fudali said she doesn’t have a convincing feeling that her son died that cold December morning.
"I believe that he's alive," she said.
It's not just a mother's intuition.
The Fudalis came home one day to find a Post-it note in their kitchen. The words, "I mise y’all, love Woit -- and I am at the bet."
And then, a call from a child in Puerto Rico, asking for Wojciech.
Police traced the number to a woman on the Caribbean island but couldn't locate her. As for the Post-it, the handwriting was child-like, and investigators found it inconclusive.
Still, Narragansett police have not closed the Fudali case.
"We've always been aggressive to go after new information that comes in," said Vellone.
Anna Fudali and her husband, Ryszard, have lost both of their sons. Their oldest died of an overdose a few years before Wojciech went missing.
They aren’t ready to quit or give up hope.
"No, I will never. He’s my heart and will all the time be in my heart. I am his mother," Anna Fudali said, adding that she recently sent letters to her son's four friends, the last people to see him. She’s hoping they contact her.
The Fudalis are offering a $4,000 reward for information related to their son's disappearance. Anyone who has information is asked to contact Narragansett police at 401-789-8967 or send a confidential email to MissinginNewEngland@gmail.com.