Aug. 15--BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- A day after his $558,000 custom-built yacht burned in St. Marys, David Trauger was due in Glynn County Superior Court to ask a judge to set aside his divorce and give him back the boat, Trauger's lawyer said.
Crystal Ferrier, who represents the 67-year-old Trauger, said he was prepared to go into court Tuesday and testify that his divorce in which the boat was awarded to his ex-wife Karen Barnes, 55, was a sham.
After the yacht Premium Time burned at 3:20 a.m. while at anchor in the North River off the St. Marys Boat Yard, investigators recovered charred skeletal remains.
Lt. Johnny Guy of the St. Marys Police Department said Wednesday he knows there was at least one burned body aboard the boat unless forensic analysis of the remains show there were more. Guy said his office has no idea yet of the identity of the remains. In addition to Barnes and Trauger, Guy said investigators still haven't located Larry Ford, a friend of Barnes' who was supposed to have been aboard a boat tied up next to the Premium Time.
Investigators and Georgia Department of Natural Resources rangers also searched the woods and neighborhood along the St. Marys River near Interstate 95 after a resident there spotted the Premium Time's dingy partially sunk in a marsh. Its bow and mooring line were also charred, Guy said.
Guy said the searchers didn't find anyone and that sonar equipment could be used Wednesday afternoon to search the river near where the Premium Time burned.
Ferrier said she doesn't know if the remains are Trauger or, if not, his whereabouts.
"He was supposed to be in my office at 2 p.m. Tuesday to prepare for the hearing. Obviously, he didn't show up,'' she said.
Until their divorce this summer, Trauger and Barnes had been married about 2 1/2 years, Ferrier said.
Their divorce was contrived as a way to get the boat into the legal possession of Barnes so that Linda Trauger, whom Trauger divorced after 20 years, couldn't lay claim to the boat as payment for money he owed her.
Had not Trauger willingly signed the boat over to Barnes, there is no possible way under Georgia law a judge would have awarded it to her in a divorce settlement, Ferrier said.
"He had this boat custom built before he ever met Karen. I have the bill of sale. He paid $558,000 for it. And he signs it over to her? No way in hell,'' Ferrier said.
Barnes and Trauger had agreed to remain living together aboard the boat when it was still at Jekyll Island, she said.
"He came back with flowers and wine in hand and all the locks are changed,'' all after she sent him a birthday card and as she was still using their credit card, Ferrier said.
Instead of living up to that agreement, Barnes took off with the boat, she said.
"He's just been devastated and distraught...He would do anything for this woman,'' Ferrier said.
In her own court filings, Barnes asserted that Trauger had been stalking her, had threatened her and that when he found the locks changed he tried to climb into the boat from the top. She called the police and there is a report.
Barnes had also filed a motion for the court to find Trauger in contempt for not paying alimony, but Ferrier said, "He didn't know where she was."
When they were still together, the Premium Time had been docked at Jekyll Harbor Marina, but Barnes had moved it to St. Marys. She claimed in her court filings she had to hide from Trauger.
Ferrier said she is mystified by the entire episode especially after hearing scuttlebutt Monday of a murder-suicide and that police had found bullets and bodies aboard the Premium Time.
None of it sound like her client, who did well in the insurance business in Pennsylvania before diminishing his role and moving aboard his boat, she said.
"Mr. Trauger is not a dumb man. He did make mistakes. One was signing this thing,'' she said of the divorce settlement.
Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405
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