X

Google Maps helps solve decades-old missing man mystery

The missing man's car shows up in a 2007 satellite image on Google.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
missing-car-google-earth

William Earl Moldt's car, which disappeared with the 40-year-old man in 1997, was discovered in this 2007 Google Maps image.

Google Earth screenshot by Steven Musil

The remains of a man who disappeared in Florida more than two decades ago have been found after his car was discovered on Google Maps , submerged in a pond. William Earl Moldt, 40, was reported missing on Nov. 7, 1997, after he failed to return home from a nightclub in Lantana, Florida.

Police launched a missing person investigation, but the case had grown cold until last month.  On Aug. 28, a property surveyor looking at Google Earth spotted the car in a retention pond in a housing development in Wellington, Florida, according to the Charley Project, which profiles unsolved missing persons cases in the US.

"Amazingly, [the] 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," the Charley Project said in a statement.

Responding deputies from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department found the heavily calcified vehicle not far from the shore and determined it had been in the water for a long time, a department spokeswoman told ABC 10.  Skeletal remains pulled from the car were identified by a coroner as Moldt.

The housing development where the pond is located was under construction at the time of Moldt's disappearance.

Watch this: Google updates Maps with AR, Facebook tests new video service