PD: Skeleton found inside vehicle in Hendricks County retention pond

Vehicle linked to Morgan Johnson case

HENDRICKS COUNTY - Skeletal remains were found inside a vehicle submerged in a Hendricks County retention pond Friday, the Hendricks County Coroner confirmed.

The car, a white 1995 Pontiac Grand Am, had Vigo County license plates. Police confirmed the car belonged to 27-year-old Morgan Johnson , a missing Terre Haute man who was last seen in May 2011.

In 2011, Plainfield police Detective Joe Aldridge said it's possible Johnson, who has a medical condition that requires him to take medication to prevent seizures, may have had a medical emergency while driving his white 1995 Pontiac Grand Am.

Officials said the remains were found inside the car, not in the trunk. The coroner's office wouldn't confirm if the remains were male or female. Police said they're hopeful that the remains will be identified on Saturday.

An anthropologist and pathologist were called to help process the car, remains and all other evidence, which was moved from the pond to a secure location.

The car was found about 7 feet to 8 feet deep in the pond, and it was about 20 feet out from shore, police said. The pond is on the south side of a warehouse in the 1500 block of Perry Road.

The windows on the car were up, the doors were locked, the ignition was in the "on" position, and the car was in drive, police said. Officials said they don't know yet exactly how long the car had been in the pond, but it had been quite some time.

In a news conference Friday, Plainfield police said the pond where the car and remains were found had been searched before during the investigation into Johnson's disappearance.

A Plainfield detective said data from Johnson's cellphone was used to narrow down the location where the phone was last used. The pond were the car was found was "right on the cusp" of the cellphone tower that was last used by Johnson's phone.

The car was found around 8 a.m. Friday during a sonar search of the pond. 

Dennis Watters, who works for a non-profit organization and helps law enforcement agencies conduct sonar searches, said the pond was too small and shallow for a traditional boat, so he had to package the sonar into a radio-controlled boat.

Watters said the sonar captured images of the car in the pond, but sonar can be hit-and-miss sometimes.

"If the sound misses the car by one inch, it might as well have missed it by 100 miles," he said.

Police said they have been in contact with Johnson's family.

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