Missing man's body found in submerged car visible on Google Maps
On Monday, a man decorating a Christmas tree looked down on a pond nearby and saw a car submerged in the water. Inside were the remains of a man who was reported missing in 2006.
An outline of the car can been seen in an aerial view of the pond on Google Maps.
Brian Houseman, the man who spotted the car, was decorating a tree on a bucket lift at the Cook Funeral Home in Byron Center, Michigan. He called police soon after the discovery.
"The vehicle had been there for a while," Lt. Ron Gates tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann. "There were no tracks in the grass. It looked like the vehicle had been there longer than one day."
Gates is with the Kent County Sheriff's Department.
On Tuesday morning dive teams arrived at the pond. They were able to retrieve a license plate number and found a wallet.
"The windows were really mucky from algae and everything else. We couldn't really see inside the vehicle really well. We couldn't open the doors. So, we actually broke the driver side and the passenger side window of the vehicle," explains Gates.
Authorities are quite certain that the remains are that of Davie Lee Niles. In 2006, the 72-year-old's family reported that he had gone missing from the nearby town of Wyoming.
I think in their minds they realized that he was deceased.- Lt. Ron Gates regarding Davie Lee Niles' family
"My understanding is that he was living at a motel in the area and he went to a local bar that night and never returned," says Gates.
Family members have said that Niles was suffering from cancer.
Investigators weren't able to recover teeth from the body, which means detectives have to rely on DNA tests to confirm Niles' identification. This is a much longer process that could take weeks, says Gates.
"We have no reason not to believe it's him. But we don't want to positively identify him until we can confirm it's him," says Gates.
Police, however, were confident enough to notify the family.
A detective with the Wyoming police department, who worked on the case when Niles first disappeared, made the death notification.
"He had kept in contact with the family and had a good relationship with them," says Gates.
A few years back, Niles family ran an obituary for him.
"I think in their minds they realized that he was deceased," says Gates. "My understanding is that they are relieved to have closure and to know that the body has been found."