Real Names: Billy Joe Neesmith, Keith Wilkes, Franklin Brantley
Nicknames: None known
Location: Richmond Hill, Georgia
Date: April 12, 1990 (most recent sighting of Franklin Brantley, Billy Joe Neesmith, and Keith Wilkes)
Occupation: Commercial Fishermen
Date of Birth: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Unrevealed
Details: Billy Joe Neesmith was the captain of the Casie Nicole, a snapper boat from Georgia. On or about April 10th, 1990, he and his crew set off on a seven-day fishing expedition in the Atlantic. His crew consisted of his brother, Nathan, nephew, Keith Wilkes, and friend, Franklin Brantley. The boat had previously spent over one month in dry dock for maintenance.
At 4:30am on the second day of the trip, Nathan noticed the boat was acting sluggish and riding deep. He and Billy Joe noticed it had picked up a foot of water in the hold. To make things worse, the pumps weren't working and the power was out, making the radio useless. Nathan woke Keith and Franklin and they formed an assembly line manually bailing out the boat, handing each other buckets and jettisoning water overboard. However, the boat kept sinking lower and was taking in water at a faster rate than the men could jettison it overboard. Billy Joe had no choice but to order the men to abandon ship.
They boarded the life raft, which looked like it was not well taken care of, being rotted by fungus. They barely fit on it, as it was not designed to hold so many passengers. After floating awhile, they noticed the hull of the sunken boat drifting near them. Nathan excused himself to ride in its hatch cover drifting nearby, to which the other three shouted for him not to return to the shipwreck as they were unsure what would happen if they split up. He swam to the submerged hull and noticed the raft a few miles away, but by dusk he lost sight of it.
By morning of April 12th, Nathan noticed a freighter three miles in the distance. He watched as it seemed to stop and circle in the vicinity of his crew mates for three hours, but it never came for him. He recalled as he noticed it was making deliberate course changes, likely picking up his crew mates. After four or five stops, it continued into the horizon, and Nathan thought he had shown poor judgment in splitting up as he seemed destined to go down with the boat.
However, the bait box from the boat dislodged, which Nathan was able to convert into a makeshift raft before the boat completely submerged into the Atlantic Ocean. He drifted for a long time on the high seas, badly sunburned and now risking death from dehydration. However, on April 15th, 1990, three days after the accident, he was finally rescued. He was twenty miles off of the coast of Georgia. Despite a large-scale search by the US Coast Guard, no trace of his crew mates was ever found. He believes the freighter picked them up and then deposited them in a foreign country.
Later that year, on October 10, Nathan and Billy Joe's sister, Oneida, received a message from a person speaking only Spanish trying to give her a message, but the only intelligible words were her name and phone number. Shortly into the conversation the caller hung up. That same day, Doug Tyson, the owner of the boat, received a similar call from someone speaking broken English. When he had visited the Neesmiths, he recounted his strange call.
Five more calls eventually came, two to Doug and three to Oneida until March 1991, when the caller finally said one complete sentence in English: "I am bringing them home." In her testimony, Oneida believes the caller is a native of a Spanish-speaking foreign country who has befriended either one or all three of the captured men and is taking extreme risk to himself to communicate with Doug and Oneida.
According to U.S. government records, Franklin, Billy Joe, and Keith are lost at sea and have been declared legally dead. However, the strange phone calls seemed to suggest that they were actually alive and on the way home, but since then, there have been no more calls, efforts, or communication. Their families are very interested in learning their whereabouts, and have reason to hope they are still alive.
Suspects: The freighter that may have picked up the three men could potentially have been involved in illegal maritime activity, or it may have flown the flag of a country with an anti-American policy. The Spanish words of the mysterious caller suggest they may have been taken to Cuba. The end of the calls may suggest that the caller was discovered and neutralized, either by drug smugglers or his superior officers.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 15, 1992 episode.
- The Crew of the Casie Nicole on Unsolved.com
- 'Voices', prayers kept fisherman going
- Survivor of Capsized Fishing Boat Says ‘Voices’ Kept Him Going
- Survivor of boat mishap hopes TV show can solve ocean mystery
- What Happened to the Crew of the Casie Nicole
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of the Casie Nicole
- Facebook Link
- Review of the Casie Nicole case