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Almost 3 decades later, arrest made in homicide

NEW PORT RICHEY - Amy Hurst received a proper funeral more than 29 years after her body was found floating in the Gulf of Mexico off Manatee County. On Sept. 11, Hurst's family gathered at Elizabeth Lake near their hometown of Pontiac, Mich. They rode pontoon boats out into the lake and placed a box containing Hurst's ashes into the water. Flowers and rose petals were placed on the box as it floated. After several minutes, it sank into the lake's depths. "It was a beautiful, beautiful ceremony," Hurst's sister, Judy Briggs, said Wednesday. "We all grew up on Elizabeth Lake, and that was where we all played and swam and lived. We felt she should be there."
Four days later, a Pasco County grand jury indicted Hurst's former husband, William G. Hurst, on a charge of first-degree murder in her death. William Hurst, 59, was arrested Monday at his home in Dawson Springs, Ky. He is in custody and fighting extradition to Florida. News of the arrest brought a flood of emotion to Amy Hurst's family. "There's relief," said Jeff Earley, her son. "We have been looking to close this chapter in our life, so there's a lot of happiness and sadness that comes along with it. It hasn't really sunk in on me yet. It's hard to believe it's all going on." "I haven't stopped crying for three days," Briggs said. "It's like it just happened yesterday, not 30 years ago." Until July, Amy Hurst's family could never be certain what had happened to her. She disappeared in August 1982 while she and her then-husband were living in a mobile home on South Boulevard in New Port Richey. The Hursts moved to Florida from Michigan not long before her disappearance. Her two children from an earlier marriage, Jeff and Lisa, remained in Michigan with their father. For a time after the move, Amy Hurst remained in contact with family through cards and phone calls. After a while, however, the cards and calls stopped. One of Amy Hurst's sisters, Lynne Rose, tried for months to reach her without success. Rose reported her sister missing on Nov. 9, 1982. William Hurst told her his wife had left him and he didn't know where she was. At some point, he left New Port Richey. Briggs and her sisters kept searching and asking questions but were frustrated in their efforts to locate her. As years passed and Earley grew into an adult, he kept his mother on his mind. One day in 2009, he and his wife came across a website for the DOE Network, an organization of volunteers that helps law enforcement solve cold cases involving missing people. On the site, they found Case File 401UFFL. The picture of the woman's reconstructed face didn't quite look like Amy Hurst, but a lot of the facts listed fit her case. In September 1982, fishermen found a woman's body in the Gulf of Mexico 27 miles off Anna Maria Island. The remains fit the basic description of Earley's mother: brown hair, small frame, 26 to 35 years old. Amy Hurst was 29 when she disappeared. The body was wrapped in a green bedspread and a beige, brown and orange afghan. A rope around the remains had been tied to a concrete block. The skull showed signs of blunt-force trauma. Earley recognized the afghan as one his grandmother had made for his mother and his aunt. Judy Briggs had an identical afghan in her house. Two years passed with Earley talking to investigators, giving a DNA sample and waiting for test results. In July, the tests confirmed the remains listed on the DOE site were those of Amy Hurst. After the confirmation, Pasco County Sheriff's Office Detective Lisa Schoneman traveled to Michigan to speak with Amy Hurst's family and to track down William Hurst. Schoneman learned that William Hurst had moved to Dawson Springs, Ky. She interviewed him there with help from local authorities, according to court documents. The sheriff's office did not release any additional information on the investigation Wednesday. For Briggs, Earley and Earley's sister, Lisa Beebe, news of the arrest confirmed the suspicions they had carried for nearly three decades. "We've lived 29 years in a prison of not knowing what happened to my mother," Beebe said. "I think he should spend the rest of his life in prison."

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