Detectives and cadaver dogs discovered human remains in a Missouri pond Sunday, days after a missing man’s car was found submerged in the water.
Investigators believe the remains belong to Donnie Erwin, a man who went missing 10 years ago on Dec. 29, 2013 in Camden County, located in the Ozarks, officials said Monday. He was last seen driving a silver 2002 Hyundai Elantra, which was pulled from Southern Camden County pond after a YouTuber contacted police on Dec. 16.
On Saturday morning, cadaver dogs alerted detectives to the presence of human remains in the pond, the Camden County Sheriff’s Office said. Detectives returned with divers on Christmas Eve and recovered human remains and an artificial hip consistent with the one Erwin had.
Investigators said they’re confident that the remains and artificial hip belong to Erwin, but a forensic pathologist will examine them to make a final determination.
The YouTuber, James Hinkle, had taken an interest in the Erwin missing person case and was independently investigating it, authorities said. Hinkle contacted the owner of the property where the pond is located earlier this month, hoping to investigate after his drone spotted a submerged car in the water. Authorities said Hinkle had received permission from the property owner to search the area on foot and by kayak. The YouTuber shared a video of the search and discovery on his YouTube channel, Echo Divers.
Hinkle called the Camden County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 16 and reported what he’d found. Investigators were able to remove Erwin’s submerged Hyundai from the pond and continued searching the pond and the surrounding area after the car was found.
Erwin was 59 years old when he disappeared, according to a missing person bulletin. Authorities described him as being 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with brown eyes and brown hair. He was last seen wearing a blue coat, blue jeans and gray loafers. Erwin was missing his left leg above the knee and had a scar on his left arm running from his elbow to his wrist. The missing person bulletin for Erwin noted that he might be using crutches.
The sheriff’s office said Erwin’s family was notified of the development.
“All of us at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office who have investigated this case for ten years are elated at the recovery and overjoyed with the closure we know this brings to the family,” the department said in a rnews elease. “This development would not have been possible without the assistance of countless volunteers throughout the years. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all.”
— Emily Mae Czachor contributed reporting.