HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's been more than three weeks since anyone has seen or heard from Jeff Meek. The Kea'au businessman vanished on November 8 after his truck reportedly got stuck in the mud while he was clearing his Pepe'ekeo lot, in preparation to one day start a farm and build a home for his growing family.
Meek's wife Marylou is five-months pregnant and they have a 2-year-old son, in addition to his two older daughters who live in California.
Investigators thought they may have caught a break in the case Wednesday morning, after security at the Kona Airport was alerted when someone checking in thought they recognized Meek disguised in a Santa hat and dreadlock wig trying to get on a flight to San Jose.
Turns out the person was wrong, but in a bizarre twist, the man mistaken for Meek is actually a fellow LDS church member and friend who says the 43-year-old was very stressed about work before he disappeared.
Jacob Olthof says he was more than a little surprised to be questioned by airport security and also Kona police. He describes Meek as a friend who confided in him about being stressed out after learning employees were reportedly stealing from his plumbing business.
"He said he had to fire all of the people that ran the office, because they were using the gas for their own vehicles," said Olthof.
Meek's mother, Sandra, confirms that funds are missing from his business and an accountant discovered other discrepancies.
"My son was very stressed over that. After he saw what was going on with his books he was worried. He was disappointed that people he trusted would do that to him," said Sandra.
While Sandra says she doesn't know if his disappearance is related to the problems he had at work, she says she is certain her son didn't hurt himself or walk away from his family over a financial dispute.
"I knew it was not my son at the airport. I had no hope at all. That's not Jeff. Jeff never walked away from anything in his life, okay? No matter how tough it was, no matter how hard it was. He was a survivor, a fighter and he was going to make it work," Sandra said.
Hilo police detectives describe the case as unusual and a bit suspicious, but say it's still being handled as a missing person investigation.
"We are keeping our options open. We have not excluded anything at this point. We're considering all the possibilities," said Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hawai'i County Police Department.
Sandra says the mysterious circumstances surrounding Jeff's disappearance lead her to believe something is wrong. The most puzzling has been the discovery of Meek's boots, which suddenly turned up alongside an ocean cliff more than a mile away from his abandoned truck in an area where family had already searched.
"If my son met with foul play maybe someone threw his body into the ocean," Sandra said, which is why family members and friends are reaching out to local fishermen and watermen in the Hilo area to ask them to please keep a lookout for anything out of the ordinary they may spot in the water or see washed up along the shore.
Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to Meek's whereabouts. Anyone with information can call the hotline and remain anonymous: (808) 961-8300.
"For those who know anything about any harm that has come to Jeff and who does not divulge the information that they have, we will not stop until we either found Jeff or we have brought to justice any person who has been involved in any harmful act towards Jeff. We will not stop," said Kimo Field, a close friend and business associate of Meek's.