$50,000 still missing decades after tragic FBI plane crash

FBI plane crash

The mystery of one of the worst disasters in FBI history has gone unsolved for more than three decades.

It was a Thursday morning, December 16, 1982, when a plane carrying four FBI agents, a bank fraud suspect, and a private investigator crashed outside of Cincinnati.

The suspected bank thief had told the agents he hid $50,000 in the woods in Ohio. More than 30 years later the money has never been found.

But the circumstances of that tragic day 34 years ago are still a mystery.

What caused the plane carrying four FBI agents to crash?

And what happened to the $50,000 they were looking for?

The answers died with Larry Ellington.

According to his FBI file he was Special Agent Charles L. Ellington. But to the people who knew him best, he was Larry.

"I can only say that he was my friend," said retired FBI supervisor William McGrath.

Friday, his friends and family laid a wreath to honor the man who died 34 years ago. A man who gave his life for his country.

"Larry lived Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity," said retired Agent Art Krinsky.

Krinsky spent many long nights working with Ellington in the early '80's when Atlanta was plagued by the murder of 28 kids.

"Atlanta was in turmoil," Krinsky said.

Ellington and Krinsky were part of a taskforce to find the killer.

Krinsky says Ellington came up with the idea to put surveillance on the bridges. Soon after, Wayne Williams was arrested.

"How many young men -- and they are men now -- are alive today because of what Larry did?" Krinsky said, "and they don't even know it."

Ellington was born and raised in Henry County. He served in the Marines in Vietnam, worked as a lieutenant with the Atlanta Police Department before joining the FBI.

"He was an FBI agent before he was really an FBI agent because he got the background on everybody that we dated and everything. He made sure that they were ok for us," said Ellington's sister Cerithia Garrard.

Ellington transferred to the FBI field office in Chicago. Ellington and a group of three other agents tracked down Carl Henry Johnson, a bank fraud suspect who told the FBI he had buried $50,000 in the woods outside of Cincinnati.

"I talked to him the night before he boarded the plane," said Garrard, "I tried to get him to come home for Christmas. But he said this was important, he had to do this."

While on approach to the Cincinnati airport, the plane crashed.

Pictures from that day show the billowing smoke and utter destruction. Four FBI agents were on board the plane, along with the suspect and an investigator working for the suspect's lawyer.

Every man on board died.

According to the FBI, there are indications that the aircraft encountered altitude read-out problems and hit some wires before it went down.

But nothing was ever definitive.

And to this day, more than three decades later, no one has found the money.


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