Gail Russell and Larry Podolski were startled awake by a knock on the front door of their Bayonet Point, Florida home around 1:00 am on Monday, September 4, 1995. Gail got up to answer the door while Larry remained in bed and fell back to sleep almost immediately. When he woke up that morning, he realized that Gail had never returned to bed. Larry looked around the house but found no sign of his girlfriend. Gail never came back to the house and she was never seen again.
Larry waited until 8:00 pm on Wednesday to report Gail missing; he said that he attempted to report her missing at 1:00 pm Monday but was told he had to wait 48 hours before police would take a missing person report. Officials later stated that they do not have a policy of making people wait 48 hours before reporting someone missing, and phone records showed that there was no call made by Larry on Monday. When he spoke with investigators from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, he told them that everything had seemed to be normal when he and Gail went to bed around 12:30 am that Monday.
The couple, who worked together at a tree-trimming business, had dropped their two young sons off at a babysitter’s house early Sunday afternoon on their way to work; they finished around 10:00 pm that night and went to Bobcat’s bar for a couple of drinks. They left there around midnight, picked up their sons, and went home. Once there, they got the boys settled and then went right to bed only to be awakened by the door around 30 minutes later.
Podolski stated that $245 in cash disappeared from the residence that night; the couple had planned to use the money to pay bills.
Russell’s family told authorities that it was uncharacteristic of her to abandon her children and not share any travel plans with loved ones. She left behind her contact lenses, driver’s license and other belongs.
Podolski, who was the father of her two sons, had asked her to marry him. He claimed she said yes and they were planning on a February 1996 wedding, but Russell’s mother said her daughter was planning to leave Podolski and take their children.
Russell’s family describes the couple’s relationship as troubled, and they openly accused Podolski of mu*rder after her disappearance. He admitted that he had problems with drugs and alcohol in 1995, but said Russell also had substance abuse issues.
She and Podolski had a violent, drunken argument in July 1995 and he was arrested, but the charges against him were dropped after Russell recanted her story, and she was charged with filing a false police report. Podolski said they were not having any problems by the time of her September 1995 disappearance.
Russell is considered endangered, but the circumstances surrounding her disappearance are unclear. Podolski died of a drug overdose in 2008. He was never charged in connection with Russell’s case, but is still considered a suspect. Her disappearance remains unsolved.