Google Earth Uncovers Car In Pond — and Skeleton of Driver Missing for 22 Years

September 13, 2019by Doug Phillips and Lois K. Solomon
Screenshot of William Earl Moldt's missing person's case file on The Charley Project, a database that tracks cold missing persons cases. (The Charley Project website/charleyproject.org/TNS)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Barry Fay couldn’t believe what a neighbor was telling him: Google Earth showed a car rotting at the bottom of a pond behind his home.

“Why? Where?” he said. “There’s no car behind my house.”

Fay might have been even more incredulous had he known the car contained the skeleton of a man missing for 22 years.

The 50-year-old Wellington man called the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, which found the remains of William Earl Moldt, a Lake Worth resident last seen in 1997.

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, Moldt, then a 40-year-old resident of Lake Worth, was last heard from Nov. 7, 1997, around 9:30 p.m., when he called his girlfriend to say he was leaving a nightclub and would be home soon.

Almost 22 years passed. Finally, on Aug. 28, deputies got the call from Fay and lifted the car from the pond in the gated, single-family Grand Isles development in Wellington, where Fay had moved 14 months before from Sunrise.

What caused Moldt’s white Saturn SL to sink into the retention pond remains a mystery.

Divers lift cars from canals on a regular basis in South Florida. In 2017, when water managers lowered the depth of the Boca Rio canal before Hurricane Irma, they found six vehicles, including a Toyota with the remains of Loraine Pinto of Boca Raton inside. She had disappeared about nine months earlier.

These crashes occur most often during clear days on dry, rural roads, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis shows.

Between 2011 and 2016, there were 168 water-related deaths from car accidents in the state, according to Florida Department of Transportation data. Bad drivers and alcohol were factors in about a quarter of the cases.

Of those fatalities, Palm Beach County had the most in South Florida, 29, while Broward had 25 and Miami-Dade eight.

In the Wellington case, Fay said his neighbor’s ex-husband, who used to live in the neighborhood, discovered the submerged 1994 Saturn SL on Google Earth.

Fay was skeptical, so he called a neighbor who operates a drone. The drone confirmed the Google Earth sighting.

“I called the former owner of my house and asked if she knew about this,” Fay said. “She was shocked.”

The grainy image from Google Earth shows a car resting on its side at a ledge where the pond comes to an end between rows of residences near the 3700 block of Moon Bay Circle. The community was under construction when Moldt disappeared.

“The vehicle’s exterior was heavily calcified and was obviously in the water for a significant amount of time,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Saturn and the skeletal remains were towed to the Palm Beach County medical examiner’s office for processing.

The remains were identified as Moldt’s on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office announced late Wednesday.

According to the missing persons site NAMUS, Moldt did not appear intoxicated when he left the adult nightclub in his vehicle alone. The site also says Moldt “was not a frequent drinker but did have several drinks at the bar.”

The site described him as 6 feet tall and 225 pounds with brown eyes. He was wearing gray pants, a white button-down Oxford shirt with stripes, a tie a black belt, and a Gruen men’s watch with gold band and blue face. He wore a 14-karat solid gold nugget ring with two diamonds on his left hand.

He was 40 when he went missing.

———

©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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