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Black was last seen on February 24, 1996, in Newark, New Jersey, where he boarded a Kiwi Airlines plane to fly to West Palm Beach, Florida. Black owned a school bus company, the Frank L. Black Bus Service, and was considering selling some of his buses to a client, which is the reason for his trip to Florida. He has never been heard from again.
Investigators believe Black was murdered by one of his business rivals and former friends, Alan Mackerley. A photograph of Mackerley is posted below this case summary. The two men became friends in their youth, but their relationship collapsed when Mackerley started his own rival school bus company, Byram Bus Line. Black was not popular in the school bus community in the 1980s; he underbid competitors to gain control of their routes, and allegedly committed many school district violations. In 1995, when Black got a major contract instead of Mackerley, Mackerley said he was going to "bury him."
In late February 1996, Black began receiving telephone calls from a woman who called herself Mia Giordano. She claimed to be involved in an export business and wished to purchase sixty conversion vans from Black. She was willing to stay on hold on the phone for a long time rather than leave a callback number, which Black's employees thought was odd. Black had been planning to sell his business, but he decided to meet with Giordano for one last business deal before his retirement. Then he vanished.
Black's daughters, one of whom is married to a New Jersey state police detective, reported his disappearance after he failed to contact them once he reached Florida. Police investigating his disappearance examined his phone records and discovered that the calls from "Mia Giordano" were actually from Alan Mackerley and his mistress, Lisa Costello. A photograph of Costello is posted below this case summary. She refused to cooperate with the investigation, even after being jailed on contempt of court charges.
The investigation got a break when Bill Anderson, one of Mackerley's closest friends, contacted authorities through his attorney and said he had information on Black's disappearance. Anderson said he had an arrangement with Mackerley where he would pilot Mackerley's plane for him and also be allowed to use it for himself. One day Mackerley asked Anderson to pilot the plane because he needed to look for something in the ocean. He said Black was missing and he thought he might be in the water. Anderson said he asked Mackerley if he had killed Black, and Mackerley allegedly replied that he had. Mackerley said Costello had met Black at the airport and taken him to Mackerley's home, where he then shot Black in the head, wrapped the body in a tarp, and dumped it in the ocean, along with the gun.
Anderson agreed to cooperate with investigators and wear a recording device on his person, and get Mackerley to confess again. Mackerley did not confess, but he was arrested and charged with murder anyway. While in jail in May 1997, he allegedly tried to hire cellmates to kill Anderson. Mackerley was charged with solicitation of murder but never prosecuted, and Anderson and his wife entered the federal Witness Protection Program.
Mackerley was convicted of Black's kidnapping and murder in Vero Beach, Florida in 1998. Costello, who admitted to bringing Black to Mackerley but was not present when the murder occurred, was also charged with kidnapping and murder, but she pleaded no contest to false imprisonment and manslaughter and received a ten-year sentence. She got credit for time served and was released from prison in 2004.
In 2001, Mackerley's convictions were overturned on appeal. An appeals court found that Black's disappearance did not meet the criteria for kidnapping because he traveled to Florida voluntarily. In Mackerley's second trial, the jury could not agree on a verdict and a mistrial was declared. Mackerley was tried a third time in 2003. He admitted to luring Black to Florida, but said he did not intend to murder him and that Costello actually killed him in self-defense. He was convicted of murder on March 15, 2003 and sentenced to life in prison.
Black's body has never been located and neither has the alleged murder weapon. He is a native of Andover, New Jersey. Foul play is suspected in his disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
New Jersey State Police
609-882-2000 ext. 2894