The story of Key West’s missing fire chief, Joseph “Bum” Farto, may be the most thrilling true crime story Key West has ever seen. After 43 years, it carries the same intrigue for islanders as the day Farto disappeared in 1976, when facing a lengthy prison sentence for selling cocaine out of a Key West fire station. Farto, who was believed to have fled to Costa Rica, would be 100 years old this year, and the statute of limitations for prosecution of anyone involved in his disappearance has expired, said filmmaker and Key West native Quincy Perkins, who with local author David Sloan has continued to find answers to Key West’s long unanswered question that appeared on T-shirts in the ’70s: Where is Bum Farto?
Perkins and Sloan have recently established the website findbumfarto.com, where people can anonymously submit information and stories about the disappearance of Chief Farto.
Perkins has brought the story back to life with a fresh twist and new details in his new radio-podcast, “The Bum Farto Story.” The seven-part series debuts with a new — and rare — interview with Key West’s reclusive former city attorney, Manny James. From there, each episode digs deep from start to finish.
Forgotten names like Titus Walters, Larry Dollar, Terry Lee Garcia and Sam Cagnina come rushing back as Perkins searches for meaning in the case and subtly wrestles with his own demons.
The research and storytelling bring new depth to the legendary case, and the revelation of more than 300 pages of FBI files provides new evidence even the saltiest of Conchs have never seen. Perkins teamed up with Sloan and the two spent a week in Costa Rica following leads from the FBI files they obtained. A conversation with an American fugitive outside San Jose, Costa Rica added a new twist to the case that has eluded journalists through the decades, and in the final episode, an explosive jailhouse tip lends closure to the island saga.
“The Bum Farto Story” will re-air in its entirety from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan 5, on The X Radio at 104.9FM or listen live online at xkeywest.com.