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In late July 1997, William Earl Moldt left a nightclub and was never seen again.
Until last month, that is. After 22 years on missing persons lists, his last resting place was finally spotted – from space.
By random chance, somebody noticed the vehicle Moldt was driving the night he disappeared – a white 1994 Saturn sedan – submerged in a murky pond behind a house in a gated community called the Grand Isles in Wellington, Florida.
For over 20 years, the car had remained completely hidden at eye level, sitting below the pond’s surface; but the overhead perspective from satellites in orbit clearly revealed the vehicle, even if it couldn’t be seen from the ground.
It wasn’t until last month, though, that an ex-resident of the area spotted the submerged Saturn via a search on Google Maps, and alerted the house’s current owner, Barry Fay. At first, he didn’t believe the news, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
“Where?” Fay told his neighbour. “There’s no car behind my house.”
At that point, Fay had lived on the property for 14 months, but he’d never spotted a vehicle hidden just a few metres into the pond.
When he checked at home that day, even after being shown the Google Maps image, he still couldn’t see it.
But when authorities came to investigate the possible missing vehicle, they found Moldt’s long-lost sedan, with skeletal remains inside it.
“Upon arrival deputies confirmed there was a vehicle in the pond,” a post by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office explains.
“The vehicle’s exterior was heavily calcified and was obviously in the water for a significant amount of time. Upon removing the vehicle skeleton remains were found inside.”
About a fortnight later, the remains were positively identified as those of William Moldt.
Fay had guessed the vehicle would be “just some junked-up old car,” he told the Palm Beach Post.
“Never did I believe there would be a 22-year-old dead body.”
While nobody can be sure how Moldt’s vehicle ended up in the lake, he was seen drinking on the night he disappeared, leaving a night club at 11 pm. He had called his girlfriend at about 9:30 pm to say he would be coming home soon, but he never showed.
At the time of his disappearance, construction was underway on the Grand Isles housing development, which previously was undeveloped land.
Somehow, amidst all the construction and development, nobody ever noticed the missing person and car hidden in their midst. Google Earth’s history features reveal the car in images dating back to at least 2017, but before that the images are a bit too low-res and murky to make out anything definitive.
Although it’s just possible that someone on the ground did see something. Maybe.
When Fay checked in with the previous owner of his house to ask her about whether she’d ever noticed something submerged in the pond, her answer was ambivalent.
“She said sometimes she thought she did see something,” Fay said, “but she was never sure.”