News People Google Earth helps close 22-year-old cold case mystery

Google Earth helps close 22-year-old cold case mystery

google earth missing man
The Florida pond where Mr Moldt's remains were found – as seen on Google Earth. Photo: Google Earth
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A missing man’s remains have been found after more than 20 years when his submerged car was spotted on Google Earth.

William Moldt disappeared after calling his girlfriend from a Lantana, Florida, nightclub on November 7, 1997 when he was 40 years old.

He was never heard from again.

Police investigated but no traces of Mr Moldt were found and the case went cold – until August.

According to local police, a former resident of Grand Isles in Wellington, Florida, about 30 kilometres west of Lantana, was “doing a Google search” of his old neighbourhood when he zoomed in on a pond and spotted what looked like a sunken car.

google earth missing man
Mr Moldt’s car in the Lantana pond. Photo: The Charley Project

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office said the former resident contacted a current homeowner, who used his own drone to confirm there was indeed a car submerged in the murky water behind his house.

Police later arrived to find the sunken white sedan, with its exterior “heavily calcified”.

When the car was removed from the pond, skeletal remains were found inside. A week later, the remains were positively identified as Mr Moldt.

Barry Fay, who made the original Google Earth discovery, told The Palm Beach Post he had never noticed anything from the shoreline.

“Never did I believe there would be a 22-year-old dead body,” Mr Fay said.

Mr Moldt was 40 when he vanished in 1997. Photo: The Charley Project

Cold case blog The Charley Project said the Grand Isles housing estate was under construction when Mr Moldt disappeared.

“Amazingly, a vehicle had been plainly visible on a Google Earth satellite photo of the area since 2007, but apparently no one had noticed it until 2019,” it said.

It is far from the first time Google Earth has helped to solve a long-running mystery.

In one of the most famous cases, Tasmanian-raised Saroo Brierley used the technology to rediscover his tiny Indian hometown after being carried thousands of kilometres away when he fell asleep on a train as a five year old.

His story was made into the 2016 movie Lion, starring Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Dev Patel.