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Car belonging to missing Texas woman Carey Mae Parker found in lake 30 years after 1991 disappearance

Carey Mae Parker was 23 when she went missing from Quinlan, Texas on March 17, 1991.

The car belonging to Carey Mae Parker, a Texas woman missing since 1991, was recovered from Lake Tawakoni last Thursday, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office said in a release provided to Dateline.

“I would like to thank the family of Carey Mae Parker for having the persistence and drive to keep pushing forward to find answers in the disappearance of their family member,” Sheriff Terry Jones said in a statement. “It was a privilege for the sheriff’s office to be able to work with the family and Adventures with Purpose to come one step closer to bringing closure to this case, which has been needed for many years.”

Carey Mae Parker, her ex-boyfriend Cody Singer and her three children
Carey Mae Parker, her ex-boyfriend Cody Singer and her three childrenBrandy Hathcock

The sheriff’s office received a call at 5:43 p.m. Thursday, February 4, from a private search and recovery team stating that they had located a vehicle in Lake Tawakoni near the causeway on FM 751, according to the release.

Hunt County Sheriff Terry Jones and investigators from the department responded to the scene where they learned the search and recovery team was using sonar equipment and discovered a vehicle in the lake.

Members of the search and recovery team, Adventures with Purpose, which often investigate cold cases, told investigators they believed the vehicle was similar to the one in the Carey Mae Parker case.

The vehicle was removed from the lake and confirmed to be the 1980 Buick Skylark that belonged to Carey Mae Parker and went missing when she did in 1991.

At the time she went missing in March 1991, Carey was a 23-year-old single mother living in Quinlan, Texas, and working at an air conditioning company in Terrell, Texas. She has three children, all of whom were under the age of six in 1991.

Carey’s sister, Patricia Gager, told Dateline in 2018, that Carey had been planning her son’s birthday when she disappeared.

Hunt County Sheriff's Department

When Carey didn’t show up to her son’s party, her family grew concerned. Patricia told Dateline that their father told a constable friend that Carey was missing, and that constable was supposed to have filed a missing persons report in 1991 in Hunt County. But after not hearing anything, Patricia filed a missing persons report herself in Terrell, Texas a few months later.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Patricia discovered that Terrell Police had initially taken Carey’s report down as a “welfare check,” rather than a “missing person” report. And when Patricia checked with Hunt County officials about the report her father’s constable friend had supposedly filed, she says she was told there was no record of a missing persons report for her sister.

Sergeant Jeff Haines with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Department told Dateline in 2018 that the case has been difficult to work since the investigation began nearly 20 years after Carey went missing. A statement issued by the sheriff's department in 2018 echoed the same frustration.

Carey Mae Parker
Carey Mae ParkerBrandy Hathcock

March 17, 2021, will mark 30 years since Carey disappeared from Quinlan, Texas, and there is still no sign of her. Investigators will be processing the vehicle to determine what evidence may be recovered, adding that the discovery of her vehicle is the next step to getting closure for the family.

Carey’s sister issued a statement on Facebook, noting Thursday’s search had been kept confidential due in part to the family’s past history with the sheriff’s office regarding the ongoing investigation.

“It is with my deepest sadness (but peaceful heart) that today we did find Carey's car off the 751 causeway where it has rested upside down in 15 ft of water for 30 years,” the statement read. “Tonight, they were only able to retrieve half of Carey's car due to its deteriorated condition. At this time no remains were found, but honestly, I don't anticipate there to be much if any.”