Car Found In Illinois River Could Solve 1976 Cold Case

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A fisherman got quite the catch when he found what could be the missing clue to a 50-year-old missing persons case at the bottom of a river in Illinois. That clue, in this case, is a 1966 Chevy Impala.

The car was pulled from the Pecatonica River by dive crews on the afternoon of March 11, and police say it’s tied to a missing persons case that occurred on February 19, 1976, when Everett Hawley and Clarence Owens went missing in Pecatonica, Illinois, WREX NBC 13 reports.

Here’s how it all went down, according to 13 WREX:

“We had some fishermen about a week or so ago, fishing with their sonar and they spotted what they thought was a car. And they drilled down on it [and] reported it to us,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana during an afternoon press conference.

Dive crews were able to recover the vehicle, which reportedly was in mud about eight to ten feet below the surface, in about 15 minutes.

“No case is ever done. My deputy chief of the detectives, he assigns cold cases and we keep drilling down on them,” said Sheriff Caruana on his Department’s mentality of never quitting on a case until it’s closed.


Sheriff Caruana says authorities are currently working on a “missing persons investigation” and that more answers are expected soon.

Multiple emergency vehicles and a crane were first seen in the area Monday morning around 8:30 a.m., where authorities told 13 WREX that crews were doing a test dive.


The Kansas City Star has written up a really good breakdown of the events of February 19, 1976. Apparently, Hawley was a real estate broker in Freeport, Illinois, and Owens was a salesperson at his firm.

Owens, who was 65 when he went missing, picked up the then 74-year-old Hawley in the Impala on that fateful Thursday morning. They went to a political rally, walked to a cafe and visited a family member. The pair was last seen at a farm auctionnear the Winnebago-Olga Country line.

The two were reported missing the following day. Police departments in the area worked an “intense” investigation, but the missing men and the Impala were never found… until this week.

Police did not say if the remains of the missing men were in the car, but they did say “there’s going to be more findings” in the case.

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