Crocodile River Tour Boat Captain Dennis Lee Lafferty Died at 75 - His death in Daintree, Queensland, Australia during a vehicle accident on Mossman Daintree Road offered answers to a 40 year Caribbean Death Mystery.
On May 26, 2015, crocodile river tour boat captain Dennis Lee Lafferty, 75, died in Daintree, Queensland, Australia during a vehicle accident on Mossman Daintree Rd . In the U.S. Dennis Lee Lafferty was known as fisherman, charter boat captain and marijuana smuggler, Raymond Grady Stansel Jr, 78, from Tarpon Springs, Florida who died on December 31, 1974.
It had been reported to authorities on January 5, 1975 that Raymond Grady Stansel died while snorkeling near Roatan, Honduras on New Year's Eve with friends Janet Wood, from Key West Florida and Pamela Hunt from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hunt returned to the U. S from the Honduras trip, Wood did not.
In 1974, the grand jury had indicted Stansel, 37, for smuggling more than 12 tons of marijuana. When arrested in June 1974, Stansel had $25,000 in cash, receipts for two $25,000 Rolex watches, signed blank Nicaragua tourist visas, unused checks on a Swiss bank account, flags from six countries and a passport indicating he had been in 12 countries in the preceding 30 days. He posted bail with a $500,000 cashier's check, surrendered his U.S. passport and wa awaiting trial which was to begin January 5, 1975, in Daytona Beach, Florida.
On the morning of Jan. 5, Stansel's attorney told the court Stansel disappeared in a scuba diving accident off Roatan, Honduras, on New Year's Eve. Airplanes searched the shoreline for him but his body was never found.
Janet Wood returned to the United States briefly after reporting Stansel's disappearance at Roatan and then also disappeared as well. In 1975, Wood and Stansel began their trip by boat. They sailed through the Caribbean by boat, went ashore in Venezuela, flew to Peru, to Tahiti and then to New Hebrides where they got married in 1975. The trip ended in Queensland, Australia. Janet Wood immigrated to Australia using her own name. Raymond Grady Stansel Jr became Dennis Lee Lafferty.
In 1976, officials in Honduras reported capturing Stansel. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced he was in custody and sent officers to pick him up. When they arrrived in Honduras, it seemed Stansel had disappeared, leaving behind his first wife and four children in the U.S. Actually, Stansel was in Australia at the time, living under his new name with his new wife.
Their home in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia for seven years was a boat, the Jessie Ray, a 53-foot boat, designed and built by Stansel. In 1987, they started the Daintree River Cruise Centre with boat trips on the crocodile-filled river.
Two of Stansel's children from his marriage in Florida, Ronald Stansel, 56, and Raymond G. Stansel III, 57, were indicted in 1991 for importing cocaine and are in federal prison after pleading guilty. Raymond disappeared before going to prison, later living in Alaska for 20 years under the name Don Davenport. Raymond married a Kodiak police officer, leaving a wife and child behind in Florida. He was arrested in Texas in 2010 and returned to Florida to face the charges.
David L. McGee, a Pensacola lawyer and for years the prosecutor in charge of a federal drug task force in North Florida, said a number of accused drug smugglers would offer up sightings of Stansel in an effort to get their charges reduced. There were sighting's of Stansel everywhere, but Australia.
"It was like sightings of Elvis or Big Foot," McGee said.
The story in the May 28, 2015, edition of the Cairns (Australia) Post reads: "The Daintree community has been left heartbroken by the road death of local tourism stalwart Dennis "Lee" Lafferty. The 75-year-old crocodile cruise operator died after his ute (pickup truck) failed to negotiate a bend on the Mossman Daintree Rd and hit a tree on Tuesday."
The story continues, "There has been an outpouring of grief in the town where he operated the Daintree River Cruise Centre for 28 years. Mossman police Sgt. Matt Smith investigated the traffic accident and called the death "devastating for the community."