A man decorating a Christmas tree from atop a lift spotted an odd object in a nearby pond last week that looked to be a car. Later, WOOD-TV reports that his keen eye solved a missing person case that’s been on the books for nine years.

If you zoom in on the pond in the Google Maps image above from outside of a funeral home in Michigan, the vehicle is clearly visible. For whenever the Maps entry updates and the car is no longer there, here is a screenshot of it:

The man who first saw the car told WOOD-TV that no one could see it from the ground because of the water’s murkiness. Wrecking crews later came in to pull the muddy vehicle out of the pond, finding skeletal remains in the driver’s seat.

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The family of the presumed driver of the vehicle, Davie Lee Niles, heard about the discovery via a news report and phone alert received by a family member. Her response was, “Hey mom, I think we better look at this.”

That alert came nearly after witnesses last saw Niles in public. From Fox 59:

The 72-year-old [Niles] was last seen on Oct. 11, 2006 at Jake’s Bar in Bryon Township; a bar which Davie frequented often. Family members told WOOD-TV he met a friend there but left suddenly on the day he disappeared. It also wasn’t uncommon for Niles to just get up and leave because he was dealing with the discomfort caused by cancer along with depression.

The car is under Niles’ name and authorities on the case found his wallet inside, but local police haven’t officially confirmed the identity of the body. They’re still waiting on dental records to identify it, but Fox 2 reports that the site of the wreck is about half of a mile from the spot he was last seen.

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As the search for Niles went on, his family held a funeral and published an obituary in 2011 stating, “Davie Lee Niles, age 72, of Wyoming, passed away and only God knows the time and place.”

Years later, the family has some knowledge (and closure) too. One relative told WOOD-TV, “Why God waited nine years, I have no idea. But we’re happy.”

Once the autopsy on the body is complete and dental records return, the family plans to have a proper funeral for Niles.


Contact the author at alanis.king@jalopnik.com.