Anybody familiar with the 14-year-old Tequesta boys’ story — which made national and international headlines for weeks — knows how it ends.
A search of more than 25,000 miles of ocean by scores of volunteers and Coast Guard crews turned up the boat, but no sign of the missing boys, who were last seen July 24, 2015.
Three years later, the only news connected to the disappearances revolves around dueling court actions taken by the boys’ families, whose relationship cracked and then severed in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“The anniversary is a very sad day for all the families involved,” said Michael Pike, an attorney for William “Blu” Stephanos, Austin’s father. “The Stephanos will be mourning the loss of their son like it was yesterday.”
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Immediately after the boys disappeared, the families united in rallying a South Florida community that ached along with Austin’s and Perry’s parents.
Carly Black, Austin’s mother, and Pamela Cohen, Perry’s mom, appeared holding hands on NBC’s “Today” show four days after the boys were last seen.
Asked by the host what was allowing them to “hold up,” Cohen answered: “I think each other.”
But a bitter rift between began as details emerged in the case, leading to a slew of court actions and appearances that has the two sides communicating only through attorneys and depositions.
The friction became public less than three months following the disappearances after Perry’s family asked Austin’s not to combine the boys in any written or electronic format.
Legal battles began shortly after that and have continued to this day.
In December 2016, Black filed an injunction asking a federal judge to uphold a maritime law that would limit her civil liability to $500 — the value of the damaged single-engine, 1978 SeaCraft used by the boys.
Cohen followed in 2017 by filing a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that Blu Stephanos, Black and two other family members were negligent by allowing the boys venture into the Atlantic with a vessel deemed not seaworthy and no communication devices on board.
The latest hearing in the case takes place Aug. 3 at the county courthouse before Judge Jeffrey Gillen.
Pike, Stephanos’ attorney, said he will ask Gillen to throw out the lawsuit.
“I believe the law is on our side,” Pike said.
Public memorials were held on the first- and second-year anniversaries of the boys’ disappearance.
Last year, about 200 people gathered July 24 at the Jupiter Inlet to remember Austin and Perry. Ashley LeGrange, who helped organize that memorial, said she was unaware of any planned vigils today.
The bickering between the families hasn’t stopped them from setting up foundations in their sons’ names.
The AustinBlu Foundation helps promote boater safety and was instrumental in getting the “Beacon Bill,” which reduces registration fees for boaters who carry location beacons on board, signed into state law in 2016.
The Perry J. Cohen Foundation focuses on various causes and helped fund Jupiter High’s Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory, an outdoor classroom used by the school’s environment, art, photography and agriculture students. A mural of Perry is painted on a wall of the classroom.
Three years later, the boys are still included in the National Database for Missing and Exploited Children.
Austin is described as 5 feet 2 inches and 115 pounds with blonde hair and green eyes. Perry is listed as 5-foot-2 and 90 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
“Help bring me home,” reads a plea above photos of both boys.