US authorities are searching for a 42-year-old Iraq war veteran suspected of faking his own death to avoid charges he raped a 14-year-old girl.
Police in Orange Beach, Alabama, found an abandoned dingy belonging to Jacob Blair Scott just offshore last summer.
Inside they discovered a note with Mr Scott’s social security number that said “I’m sorry” and a handgun tied to a rope.
Yet investigators believe the scene was staged and are now appealing to the public for help in tracking down the fugitive.
“Based on the conversations with local investigators, it is not believed that an actual suicide took place and that he is actively avoiding capture,” said Katrina Crouse, a senior inspector for the US Marshals Service.
The former US Army serviceman disappeared on 30 July, just days before he was set to plead guilty to 14 sexual assault charges.
Mr Scott had withdrawn $45,000 from his retirement account in the days before he vanished. Authorities in Mississippi and Alabama also became suspicious after failing to find any forensic evidence of a suicide.
“Normally in situations where somebody is shot, committed suicide, you’re going to have other forensic-type evidence. For example, brain matter, hair, skin, bone,” Ms Crouse told ABC News affiliate Denver7. “None of that was found.”
Marshals had looked for Mr Scott in Denver after being asked to investigate a tip received by Mississippi Crime Stoppers, said Ms Crouse.
“We have and are still actively investigating these tips but nothing substantial has been received yet. We believe he could be anywhere at this time.”
Mr Scott is described as a white male, around 5ft 10 in height, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Additional reporting by agencies