Google Earth photo of pond helps find car with skeleton of Florida man missing since 1997

Google Earth can be a useful tool to view neighborhoods and landmarks. A recent photo took that process a step further, as the view above a South Florida retention pond revealed a submerged car containing the skeletal remains of a man missing for 22 years.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday the remains of William Earl Mondt, 40, of Lake Worth, were found in a Wellington community, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Deputies said a previous resident was poking through Google Earth when he noticed the submerged car behind a house, the Miami Herald reported. That person called the current resident, Barry Fay, who activated a drone and confirmed there was a vehicle in the water, the newspaper reported.

On Aug. 28, deputies found the vehicle, a white Saturn SL, and noticed its exterior was "heavily calcified," WPEC reported.

When the car was extracted from the water, deputies noticed skeletal remains inside. The medical examiner’s office confirmed Moldt’s identity on Tuesday.

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

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, Moldt was last heard from Nov. 7, 1997, when he called his girlfriend and said he was leaving a Lantana nightclub, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The Wellington subdivision was under construction when Moldt disappeared, according to WPLG.

"Amazingly, a vehicle had plainly (been) visible on a Google Earth satellite photo of the area since 2007, but apparently no one had noticed it until 2019, when a property surveyor saw the car while looking at Google Earth," according to The Charley Project website.


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