- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A former NFL quarterback who failed to show for sentencing on drunken driving charges nearly four years ago was killed in a car crash in Greece, authorities said, leaving behind an unsolved mystery involving two suspicious fires and years spent on the lam.

The State Department used fingerprints to determine that the victim of Saturday’s crash was William “Jeff” Komlo, according to Jim Vito, Chester County’s acting chief detective. Vito said he was initially skeptical, concerned because of Komlo’s history that he might have faked his own death.

“Even though we heard that he was deceased, the first reaction was that, well, we better make a positive identification,” Vito said.

Once the State Department verified the fingerprints were those of the 52-year-old fugitive, Vito was satisfied.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re closing this now.”

A State Department spokesman, Noel Clay, declined to comment “out of respect for the family.” He would not say where in Greece the accident happened or release details of the crash.

Komlo played for the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers over five NFL seasons from 1979 to 1983.

In July 2005, Komlo failed to show for sentencing on two drunken driving convictions.

Two months earlier, authorities had issued a warrant for Komlo when he didn’t appear for a May 10 preliminary hearing on charges in an alleged assault on his girlfriend.

At the time he went missing, Komlo was under investigation for fires at his home in Chester Springs, Pa., and another home in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Komlo had lived in Chester Springs and worked as an insurance broker in the nearby Philadelphia suburb of Wayne. Authorities did not know what happened to him after he skipped the hearings in 2005.

“This guy apparently has created some intrigue over the years,” Vito said.

In the 2005 Palm Beach County case, Komlo staged a fire at his home and tried to make it look like the damage resulted from a hurricane, according to Capt. Rob Rush, of the fire department’s bomb and arson squad.

“We found a lot of evidence that there was an attempt to burn this place in multiple spots around the room,” said Rush, adding that the case will be closed once the county gets a death certificate. “He was still our only suspect, and we were convinced that he was responsible for the crime.”

Komlo starred at the University of Delaware, leading the Blue Hens to the Division II national championship game in 1978. The Lions picked him in the 9th round of the 1979 NFL draft.

Scott Selheimer, Delaware’s sports information director, said the school’s thoughts go out to Komlo’s friends and family.

“It’s a tragic situation where someone, when they were here at the university, was kind of like a hero,” Selheimer said. “It’s a shame that his life kind of tumbled. He was going through so many troubled situations for so long.”

After playing in 16 games his rookie year in the NFL, the 200-pound, 6-foot-2-inch quarterback played sporadically the rest of his career.

An NFL spokesman did not immediately comment Friday.

“For whatever his past sins, it’s always sad for family and friends when someone passes, particularly when that family includes four children,” said Tom Schindler, a lawyer in West Chester, Pa., who had represented Komlo.

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