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Authorities make arrest in 1982 killing

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

Florida authorities believe they have solved the murder of a woman whose body was found in 1982 floating about 25 miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island.

The victim was identified earlier this summer by the Manatee County medical examiner as Amy Hurst of New Port Ritchey.

The man taken into custody just last week in Kentucky was Hurst’s husband, William Gary Hurst, 59.

Amy Hurst, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, was 29 when she disappeared in 1982. She was reported missing in November 1982 by her sister, who told authorities she had not seen Hurst for three months.

That same year, in September 1982, a woman’s body was found 25 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island. The U.S. Coast Guard brought the remains, wrapped in an afghan blanket and anchored to a concrete block, to Manatee County.

Authorities determined that the woman had suffered severe blunt trauma to her head.

She was a homicide victim, but she was not identified until this July, when the Manatee County Medical Examiner’s Office compared DNA from the body and Hurst’s son, Jeff Early.

Early had contacted Manatee County officials in 2009 after learning about the Doe Network, a cold-case program that helped authorities match missing persons to unidentified victims.

The son, through the Doe Network, saw a photograph of the blanket the body was wrapped in and suspected it was the same blanket a relative had given to his mother.

Since July, investigators with the medical examiner’s office, Manatee County and Pasco County sheriff’s offices and the FBI have been involved in trying to solve the Hurst case.

Last week, William Gary Hurst remained in Kentucky awaiting extradition. Authorities have not described what led them to arrest the husband.

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