Google Earth helps find remains of man missing for decades in Florida

A former resident of a Florida community was looking at Google Earth and spotted a car in a pond. The remains of a man missing since 1997 were inside.

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By Phil Helsel

A man checking out aerial views of his former Florida neighborhood on Google Earth helped officials discover the skeleton of a man missing for more than 20 years.

The remains of William Moldt, who was reported missing Nov. 8, 1997, were found in a Palm Beach County pond in a "heavily calcified" vehicle that the former resident, who officials did not identify, first spotted using Google Earth, the sheriff’s office said Thursday in a statement.

This undated photo provided by the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System shows William Moldt. It took 22 years, but the missing man's remains were finally found thanks to someone who zoomed in on his former Florida neighborhood with Google satellite images and noticed a car submerged in a lake. Moldt went missing in 1997.National Missing & Unidentified Persons System via AP

He contacted the property's current resident, who used a drone to confirm the discovery before notifying the sheriff's office.

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Deputies found the car in the retention pond in Wellington late last month, NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach reported. The sheriff’s office said that the remains were positively identified as Moldt's on Tuesday.

In 1997, Moldt, then 40, called his girlfriend from a bar around 9:30 p.m. the night before he was reported missing and said he would be home soon. He left the nightspot around 11 p.m. and did not appear drunk, WPTV reported, citing the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System website.

Wellington is a town of around 56,500 west of West Palm Beach.

Barry Fay, 50, who moved to Wellington from Sunrise 14 months ago, told The South Florida Sun Sentinel that a neighbor's ex-husband, who used to live in the neighborhood, found the submerged Saturn while looking at Google Earth. The website uses satellite imagery to show images from above from around the world.

"I called the former owner of my house and asked if she knew about this,” Fay told the Sun Sentinel. "She was shocked."

The community where the body was found, Grand Isles, was under construction when Moldt went missing, WPTV reported. How the car got into the pond was unclear.

A neighbor, Lori Martin, told the station that the discovery in the pond "was very shocking to all of us," but that she's glad the body was found so he could be found and rest in peace.