People Exclusive

Family of Missing Florida Teen Perry Cohen Speak Out Against Claims They Hid Information: 'All We Want Is the Truth'

05/01/2016 AT 09:00 AM EDT

The family of Perry Cohen, one of two Florida teens – both 14 – that have been missing at sea since July, dispute allegations that they withheld information collected in a private search and rescue effort conducted in the days after the boys disappeared.

At issue is an investigation commissioned by Nicholas Korniloff, Perry Cohen's stepfather, and conducted by Six Maritime, a Gainesville-based firm that offers a range of maritime services including search and rescue, security and tactical training. The firm's effort focused in part on the discovery of two life jackets and a floatation device on the Georgia shore shortly after the boys' disappearance.

"Let's talk about the lack of transparency," Margaux Stephanos, the aunt of Austin Stephanos, who vanished alongside Perry in July, wrote in a statement posted to Facebook earlier this week. "Let's talk about the Six Maritime report from a private search that was paid for by the GoFund Me account, which was raised in both boys' names. After multiple requests and pleas, Blu [Austin's father] and Carly [Black, Austin's mother] were both denied access to see this report. Potential items from the boat were supposedly found in August and not turned over to the FWC until October. Not only have they still to this day never seen the report, but they have yet to even get a response to their requests."

But Korniloff and Pamela Cohen, Perry's mother, vehemently deny those allegations.



"[The Stephanos] were supplied every single bit of information," Cohen told PEOPLE.

Paul Robinson, CEO and co-founder of Six Maritime would not comment on specifics of the investigation, but explained how reporting of findings were shared.

"Very simply put, we have an online remote management system and all the reporting is done in what we call a fusion center," Robinson told PEOPLE. "All of the participants including team members and the families were invited into that workspace."

"They were given login information and a password to check on the report, the status updates of Six Maritime 24 hours a day," Cohen said, adding that both families also were given daily updates by Vince McBeth of The McBeth Group International, an additional firm approached by Korniloff and Cohen to assist investigations.

Margaux Stephanos' statement was removed from the Facebook page of the AustinBlu Foundation, where it was originally posted, sometime Saturday. The Stephanos family did not respond to requests for comment.

Efforts of both Six Maritime and McBeth were referenced in a 128-page trove of documents released this week by the FFWCC [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]. Among the documents were reports written by FFWCC Investigator Kyle Patterson.

For more on Perry and Austin, pick up the upcoming issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

"At approximately 1432 hours [on Oct. 20] I transported and checked evidence into the FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] lab in Orlando," Patterson wrote in the report. "This consisted of the two life jackets and one throwable floatation device received by Nick Korniloff. The evidence was examined for DNA, blood and/or fibers."

On November 7, Patterson accessed the completed FDLE report.

"The report noted that the DNA collected was not interpretable and the information contained from the life jackets and the throwable floatation device did not meet the criteria to be entered into CODIS."

CODIS is the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, used by analysts to search DNA profiles obtained from crime scene evidence against DNA profiles from other crime scenes and from convicted offenders and arrestees.

Patterson's reports also discuss talks with Tarin Anthon, hired by Six Maritime to conduct a K-9 search in a Wassa Marsh area where the life jackets and floatation device were found. Anthon's K-9 units communicated two cadaver hits in the area and she connected Patterson with US Fish and Wildlife Service Agent Stacey Welch, who agreed to perform dives in the area. In that effort, Welch worked with Peace River K-9 Search and Rescue Association, hired by the Stephanos family.

When the US Coast Guard ended their search for the boys, the FFWCC became the lead agency in the investigation.

"FWC immediately started their investigation and we were told that the reports should remain confidential until FWC finished their investigation as not to skew the work that they were supposed to do as the lead investigative agency," Korniloff said when asked why reports of private search and rescue efforts were not publicly released. As for the Stephanos family's access, "Those reports were read. All the details were online."

Korniloff noted that all reports have been shared with the FFWCC and that members of the Stephanos family participated in a joint meeting in which the Six Maritime search was called off.

"These two boys were beautiful, beautiful boys," Korniloff told PEOPLE. "And all of us, everybody who was involved deserves an answer. Perry deserves this, Austin deserves this, the families deserve this. Everyone deserves an answer."

"It’s an investigation of two 14-year-old boys that have vanished," Cohen said. "All we want is the truth. It’s all any mother or father would ever want."
blog comments powered by Disqus

From Our Partners