A group of divers dredged up a car from the Brazos River in Texas, which could finally solve a missing persons case that was opened in 2017. In December of that year, 42-year-old Stephanie Torres left her home in Waco, Texas, behind the wheel of her 2006 Kia Rio, according to NBC. She left her “wallet, cell phone and medication” at home and family said it wasn’t unusual for Stephanie to be gone for days at a time.
But Torres didn’t return, and her family filed a missing persons case with Waco PD. Police claim they investigated the disappearance by scanning for recordings of her car’s license plate on highways, and even enlisted the Texas Rangers to assist. Their investigation led nowhere, and Stephanie’s case was closed in 2019.
In December of 2021, a team of divers reached out to Stephanie’s daughter, Bianca, to offer their help pro bono. The group goes by the name Adventures with Purpose, and uses sonar to find cars underwater; they specialize in finding people who’ve gone missing along with their cars.
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The divers took the information provided by the Torres family and figured that Stephanie’s car could be in the Brazos River, which is reportedly nearby the missing woman’s home.
The divers started their search and found Stephanie’s car in under one hour:
Today AWP began our search for 43-year-old Stephanie Torres who was last seen December 21, 2017 in Waco, Texas driving her Kia Rio just after midnight. Starting our day at 9:00, Jacob Grubbs and his team from Chaos Divers met up with AWP, along with Bianca (Stephanie’s Daughter). Working from clues as to the events prior Stephanie last being seen on December 21st, both dive teams began scanning the Brazos River on the West side of Brazos Park East Boat Ramp.
In less than an hour, our teams identified 3 targets 13 feet underwater at the East Boat Ramp. After marking the targets in question, Doug and Jacob dove on all 3 vehicles, identifying a Kia Rio matching the description of Miss Torres’ car. The vehicle was upside down, 55' from shore, 13' underwater.
Waco PD confirmed the Kia Rio belongs to Stephanie Torres. The divers also located what may be a human jaw inside of the car, however, the remains have not been confirmed as those of Stephanie Torres.
An NBC reporter asked Waco Police why the divers found the missing car within an hour of searching, while Waco PD were unable to uncover clues or leads during their investigation. Waco Police said “...the original investigating detective did not find any information that led them to believe that she was in a body of water or in this location, at all.” Waco PD is now investigating the car and the human remains found within, all thanks to the divers.
The divers got started by organizing environmental cleanup dives in Portland, Oregon, but the group’s founder realized that cars involved from missing persons cases were routinely found during the cleanup dives. Many of these cars contained human bodies or remains, so the group changed its focus to help solve cold cases.
The number of cars their searches have uncovered is, indeed, surprising. Last week, the divers found over a dozen cars in Lake Whitney while investigating another Texas cold case, that of John Screech, who went missing in 2009. The divers found 13 cars submerged from 30 to 65 feet, per the NYT. Lake Whitney stems from the Brazos River, where the divers found Stephanie Torres’ car.