Camden Sylvia and Michael Sullivan had been together for six years and were living in a loft in Lower Manhattan, New York. Camden, a 36-year-old originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was a real estate agent and painter. Meanwhile, Michael was a 54-year-old actor and choreographer who worked at an art gallery.
The couple paid $300 a month for the fifth-floor rent-controlled loft. The owner of the building, Robert Rodriguez, ran a locksmith shop on the ground floor but did not live in the building.
At the beginning of every winter, tenants would complain that Rodriguez took too long to turn the heating system on. Moreover, he was trying to increase the rent to $3000 a month.
On November 7, 1997, Camden handed Rodriguez a petition, signed by all of the building’s tenants, threatening a rent strike if he didn’t turn the heating on.
Later that evening, Camden and Michael went on a jog. They were last seen renting a movie, Addicted to Love, at a store down the block from the loft.
During the next week, neighbors and friends would grow increasingly worried about the couple’s whereabouts. Finally, Camden’s work colleague called their family.
Camden’s mother Laurie visited the apartment and was let in by one of the neighbors.
There were no signs of foul play and it was evident that the couple had not planned to be gone for long. Their eyeglasses, money, passports, wallets, and the movie they had rented were in the house. The couple’s running shoes and one set of keys were missing, along with a bag that Camden used to bring work home.
Authorities contacted Rodriguez, who was at his home in Orange County, and he was cooperative, providing them with access to the entire building.
A couple of days later, after authorities learned about the tenant’s feud with the landlord, they tried to call him in for an interview. Surprisingly, his family said Rodriguez had left 12 hours before to go to Manhattan and meet with the authorities. After realizing that Rodriguez was missing, his son reported him missing.
Rodriguez’s family refused to let authorities search his property. As a result, police used infrared devices from a helicopter in order to identify any bodies on the property or anything suspicious that would allow them to get a search warrant. However, their search was not successful.
When Rodriguez’s car was found, in a parking lot about half an hour from the building, his lawyer did not allow authorities to search it.
It was theorized that Rodriguez may have killed the couple and then dumped their bodies in the Hudson River. The river was searched but nothing was found. Eventually, police also tore up the loft’s floor and brought in cadaver dogs. This effort was also fruitless.
Two weeks later, Rodriguez reappeared. He hired a lawyer and refused to cooperate with the investigation. Although authorities suspect that he was involved in the couple’s disappearance, they were never able to find any solid evidence.
Rodriguez ended up being arrested for tax fraud and larceny. He admitted to stealing the identity of a Newburgh apartment manager named Allen Rodriguez (not related) who died in 1994. He was also charged with fraud and tax evasion.
He was sentenced to four years in prison, however, just before his release date in 2002, two years were added to his sentence. The New York State Parole Board deemed him “intentionally deceitful” in the disappearance of a gun cache from his property.
Rodriguez was released in 2004 and moved to East Harlem. His wife divorced from him when he went to prison.
Interestingly, Rodriguez is connected to another missing persons case. David King was a locksmith working at Rodriguez’s shop, Firesafe Fire Alarms. He was a co-defendant in a $13 million civil lawsuit with Rodriguez in 1991. The two men had been charged with plotting to steal computer software, business records, and customers from a rival fire alarm company.
Around the same time, King and Rodriguez had an argument and King disappeared. He left behind his wife and three kids.
Toward the end of the 1990s, authorities ordered the exhumation of a body believed to be King’s. Inexplicably, his family refused to provide a blood sample for DNA testing and as a result, it is still unknown if the body is King’s.
Camden and Michael have never been found but are presumed to be dead. If alive, Camden is now 57 and Michael 76.