Part 3 of 3: Search for killer John Vining's 4th victim 'not over'

On a cold day this January, Travis Vining stood at the edge of a pond bog on the Deseret Ranch in Osceola County, watching two cadaver dogs sniff the ground.

They were searching for Bob Ragen, who disappeared in May 1987. He was last seen with Travis' father, John Vining, before Vining was sentenced to Death Row for killing a diamond dealer.

They didn't find any remains that day, but they aren't giving up.

"It's not over," said Detective Dave Clarke.

But it is for Travis.

"I will not be going out there again," he said.

The path to the truth

Travis' odyssey began more than five years ago, triggered by a sudden memory of his father telling him he killed two men in a drug deal. It has been a long journey, one that Travis thought had ended on Jan. 6, 2005, the day he got his father to confess to killing the men.

It wasn't the end, though. Travis still thought of Ragen, a business associate of his father's who disappeared the same year Vining killed the two men and diamond dealer Georgia Caruso.

If he could get his father to admit to the killing, Travis would finally have closure.

Travis used the only ammunition he had: Money that he deposited into his dad's commissary account so he could buy cigarettes.

Last summer, Travis wrote his father a letter, saying he would not deposit any more money until 78-year-old Vining revealed what happened to Ragen.

At first, his father was outraged and sent his son threatening letters. But for Vining, the few items from the commissary — bought with money from his son — make sitting in a 6-by-9-foot cell tolerable.

In September, Travis got a letter from his father, telling him he shot Ragen three times and buried him where the father and son used to hunt, Deseret Ranch, which has thousands of acres in Osceola County.

On Dec. 17, John Vining sent another letter with more location details and a map.

The day after investigators searched the area, Travis wrote his father a letter, saying the issue was closed for him. He deposited $200 into his father's commissary account.

"I still have compassion for my father," Travis said.

How does John Vining feel about his son's betrayal? A reporter for the Orlando Sentinel wrote Vining, asking for an interview.

He tore up the reporter's business card and sent it and the letter back with a message.

"Not interested! Not now — not ever."

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