World War II veteran Arthur Duperrault had always dreamed of sailing the Carribean on a long vacation. He was from chilly Wisconsin and had fond memories of stops in the Carribean during his naval service during World War II. By 1961, he felt that he had enough money to afford such an extravagance. Duperrault, his wife, and three children flew to Fort Lauderdale and chartered the large sailboat, Bluebelle. They would sail the Carribean for a week, maybe more if they really were having a great time.
The Bluebelle was skippered by Julian Harvey and his wife, Mary Dene Harvey, did the cooking and cleaning. On November 12, 1961, the ship began its journey back to Fort Lauderdale. It never made it. Julian Harvey was picked up the next day by a passing ship. He was floating in a small lifeboat. He stated that the Bluebelle had hit a squall and was severely damaged, caught fire, and sunk. He had been unable to rescue anyone from belowdecks. His story aroused immediate suspicion but there was nothing to refute it.
Three days later 11-year-old Terry Jo Duperrault was found floating on a small raft. She had survived with no food, water, or shade for almost 4 days. She was semi-conscious, non-verbal and had to be immediately hospitalized. With their suspicions somewhat confirmed, US Coast Guard investigators called Harvey back in for more questioning. They hoped to break him in the box. When he was informed of the girl’s survival Harvey seemed shocked. He quickly requested a break from the interview. Hours later his body was found, he had committed suicide.
When Terry Jo was able to speak, she told a horrible story. Harvey had killed all on board. The young girl had been sleeping in her cabin when she was jolted awake by a loud noise. She scrambled above deck and observed Harvey with a rifle and saw the bodies of her family members. Harvey damaged the boat and it started to sink. He had not killed her, probably assuming she would not survive the sinking.
Investigators found that Harvey was deeply in debt and had recently taken a life insurance policy out on his wife. They further found that he had run his over-insured last ship aground on a reef in order to collect on the policy. Looking further back, it appeared that his second wife had also drowned after the car he was driving drove into a river. She was also well insured.
Terry Jo Duperrault survived her ordeal and went to live with her aunt. She changed her name due to the media attention and remained very averse to speaking of the incident and dealing with the mental trauma. In 2010 she finally broke her silence and released a book about the murders and their aftermath called Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean.