DOVER, N.H. – A well-known auctioneer from Lyman, Maine, who disappeared nearly five years ago after telling his wife that he was going to get a cup of coffee has been located in Pennsylvania.
Claude Van Tassel, a 71-year-old father of 12, apparently has no plans to return to his old home or to be reunited with his family.
"He has asked that his location not be given out because he does not want to be found," Anthony Colarusso, Dover's interim police chief, told Foster's Daily Democrat. "In essence we have a person who has been missing of his own volition since 2002, but he is healthy, he is alive and well in Pennsylvania. At this stage the case is closed, the family's been notified."
But his wife Beatrice, 68, said she won't be convinced that her husband of 38 years has surfaced until she hears his voice.
"I haven't talked to him or nothing so it's really hard to believe," she said. "We're thinking in our mind maybe it's not him. How are they positively sure it's Claude Van Tassel?"
Police refused to disclose the location where he was found by the FBI on Feb. 8 after submitting a rental application.
Van Tassel and his wife were shopping at the Ames department store in Dover when Van Tassel vanished and was reported missing in April 2002.
Police mounted a search of the surrounding area that involved bloodhounds and a state police helicopter.
"We then began to dig into the history of Mr. Van Tassel and learned that he did a similar thing and was missing in another part of the country a year previously," Colarusso said.
In the earlier disappearance, he also told his wife he was going for coffee. His abandoned truck was found weeks later in Ohio, and Van Tassel was found 72 days later at a homeless shelter in Iowa.
At the time, family members blamed his disappearance on stress and a lack of business at his 32-year-old company, Van Tassel's Auctions.
Beatrice Van Tassel said it seems impossible that her husband would simply walk away from everything.
"We were very close and we did everything together, every day," she said. "I don't know what to think, I still feel something happened to him -- why would he be in Pennsylvania and not call us? I mean that's not that far away."