SPARTA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Authorities in White County now confirm to NewsChannel 5 that investigators are processing the vehicle owned by a cold case victim.
Erin Foster, 18, and Jeremy Bechtel, 17, disappeared on April 3, 2000, after leaving Foster's home.
In the years since, police have searched and tracked down dozens of possible leads but never found a trace of the two.
Investigators told NewsChannel 5 the vehicle was found by Jeremy Beau Sides of Exploring with Nug using sonar to search parts of the Calfkiller River.
Sides is known for using scuba gear and sonar to look for missing persons or items in bodies of water.
"Every so often a case will pop up where somebody just vanishes off the planet and they disappear in their car. That’s an immediate red flag that chances are, they went into a body of water somewhere," Sides explained.
He came to Sparta last month to search for Foster’s Pontiac Grand Am, with the discovery coming more than 21 years after the pair went missing.
"It was a very small town, two teenagers go missing and no one knows where they went. Everybody knew these kids, they went to school with them, you know," Sides said. "Half the police officers went to school with these guys, they were friends with them. It was a very great feeling to bring so much closure and answers to so many people at once. It meant a lot to me and I know it meant a lot to all of them too."
Investigators relayed to NewsChannel 5 that the rusted structure of Pontiac was pulled from the river and is basically intact, with human remains found inside the vehicle.
On Wednesday, crews were doing the forensic work on the 1998 Pontiac, removing mud and collecting evidence.
The remains have yet to be positively identified and that could be a challenge after so long in the river, authorities said.
They will be sent for genetic DNA testing and possible comparisons with dental records.
Both families have been notified.
Investigators will be looking for anything that may give a hint as to what happened to the teens that night more than two decades ago.