South Florida

A Florida man was missing for 22 years. It took Google Earth and a drone to find him

William Earl Moldt’s car is seen at the top of this Grand Isles community retention pond in Wellington 22 years after it plunged to the bottom in November 1997. Palm Beach Sheriff’s deputies found Moldt’s remains inside the car after someone reported they had seen the car via Google Earth.
William Earl Moldt’s car is seen at the top of this Grand Isles community retention pond in Wellington 22 years after it plunged to the bottom in November 1997. Palm Beach Sheriff’s deputies found Moldt’s remains inside the car after someone reported they had seen the car via Google Earth. Google Earth

William Earl Moldt left a South Florida nightclub on Nov. 8, 1997.

He was never seen again.

Until Wednesday, when his identity was confirmed through medical records.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was finally able to close its missing person’s report on the 40-year-old man who went missing 22 years ago after leaving a nightclub on Okeechobee Boulevard and Military Trail, WPBF reported.

They found him via technology that wasn’t as developed back then: Google Earth and drones.

According to deputies, a previous resident who had lived in the Grand Isles community in Wellington was searching around on Google Earth when he noticed what appeared to be a car in a retainer pond behind a house.

That person called the current resident on Moon Bay Circle to tell him that there appeared to be a car behind his home, deputies said in a Facebook post.

So the resident activated his personal drone and confirmed what the other man had seen. There was a car in that pond. He contacted the sheriff’s department, deputies said.

When they got there on Aug. 28, deputies found a heavily calcified vehicle at the bottom of the pond that “was obviously in the water for a significant amount of time.”

When the car was pulled from the water, deputies saw skeletal remains inside.

The medical examiner’s office confirmed Moldt’s identity on Tuesday.

Grand Isles was under construction in 1997 when Mold disappeared, WPLG Local 10 reported.

Moldt could have been found 10 years ago. According to the Charley Project, an online database group that tracks cold missing persons cases, a satellite image of the pond from 2007 also showed the car in the water, “but apparently nobody noticed it until recently.”

Moldt had called his girlfriend at the time to tell her he was on his way home from the club but he never made it back, Newsweek reported.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office did not give any details on Moldt’s family.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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