By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A body recovered in the Merrimack River Sunday afternoon at the Newburyport Yacht Club is believed to be the remains of Richard Decker, the German national reported missing in November after he presumably fell into the chilly river and drowned, according to police and yacht club employees.
Newburyport police Lt. Richard Siemasko said the body, which was heavily decomposed, was transported to state’s medical examiner’s office for DNA testing. Making the process more difficult for examiners is the absence of teeth or fingerprints, Siemasko added.
“We’re working on that assumption (that it’s Decker),” Siemasko said, adding that it could be many weeks before the identity of the body is known. “It’s probably going to be longer than sooner.”
According to the yacht club, at around 2:40 p.m. a member found the body washed up against the docks. Visited by a reporter yesterday, a yacht club official declined to comment on the grisly discovery referring all questions to local police. But in prepared statement, a yacht club official said the body is believed to be that of Decker. The identity of the club member who discovered the body was not released.
Siemasko said police cordoned off the area where the body was found and called state police, harbormaster and Coast Guard, treating the marina like a crime scene. Two Coast Guard personnel eventually hoisted the remains out of the water.
It was only last week that Decker’s yacht, the 37-foot-long Endeavor was placed up for auction by city officials. As of yesterday, the highest bid for the Fiberglas sailboat thus far was $10,200 with 32 bids made, according to the online auction site municibid.com. The auction is scheduled to end May 29.
No relatives came to claim ownership of the boat leading Newburyport officials to take the unusual step of placing a person’s property up for bid.
Decker, 51, bought the sloop last fall with the intention of living on it, police said. He was reported missing six months ago when the Coast Guard discovered his swamped dinghy tied to the boat’s stern near the mouth of the fast-flowing Merrimack River. His dog was tied to a park post across the river. Officials do not know exactly what happened to Decker, but they theorize he fell overboard and drowned when his dinghy line became entangled in the sailboat’s propeller and he attempted to free it while en route to a dock to retrieve his dog.
In the weeks following his disappearance, friends attended a memorial service at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to pay tribute to the man who loved sailing, medical technology and Web design. A few days before the ceremony, Decker’s friends met at Cashman Park and placed a wreath near the spot where his Siberian husky, Toleman, had been found.
The Newburyport Yacht Club is located off Merrimac Street, about a 20-minute walk from downtown, is a fixture of the Newburyport shoreline. Its marina has 192 slips off three docks and its season typically begins on Memorial Day. It is only a few blocks west of another shoreline landmark, the North End Boat Club.