Authorities have reopened a cold case of two Tennessee teens who vanished more than two decades ago, thanks to a shocking discovery from a scuba-diving YouTuber.
Erin Foster, 18, and Jeremy Bechtel, 17, have been missing since they left a White County home together to go to a party around 10 p.m. April 3, 2000, in Foster’s black Pontiac Grand Am, authorities said.
But for years, no new evidence has emerged in the case.
That all changed in November when YouTuber Jeremy Beau Sides made a grim discovery, a 1998 Pontiac Pontiac Grand Am sitting at the bottom of Calfkiller River in Sparta, cops said.
The car was later positively IDed as Foster’s and human remains were found inside the vehicle, local NewsChannel5 reported. The families of both Foster and Bechtel have been notified.
Sides, who uses sonar technology to help crack cold cases, documented on his YouTube channel his discovery of the car, and it being pulled from the water.
“I’m lost for words,” Sides said. “I’m so glad I could find them. I’m so sad that that’s where they ended up. I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years that they’ve been sitting there waiting for someone to find them.”
Sheriff Steve Page confirmed the development and said in a statement that “further information will be released as soon as they become available.”
Remains from the car were sent to the county coroner for official identification, and both families of the teens have been notified.
“It kind of seems like almost a dream,” Foster’s father Cecil told Inside Edition.
Adding to his shock, he said, is that he had gone fishing with his son many times over the years on the same river.
“I mean right over the car. But the water’s always real murky and stuff there and there’s no way we could have saw the car, anyway,” he told the outlet.
Cecil said that the family has long struggled with the unknowns surrounding Foster’s disappearance and put away their photos of her, finding them too painful to look at with her gone.
“They were packed away and we just lived basically like she was dead and tried to make it through the day,” he said.
But despite her decades-long absence, he still couldn’t bring himself to hold a funeral.
“I didn’t want to do that because we didn’t know if she was dead or not,” Cecil said. “I didn’t want to pretend she was dead and find out she wasn’t.”
The families of the two teens have prepared separate funerals but will hold a joint memorial service. A GoFundMe page to help cover costs has already raised more than $6,200.
Bechtel’s father, Ronnie, said the break in the case has been devastating.
“It’s like losing him all over again,” he told the Washington Post. “It just shattered my heart again. We always kind of thought through the years that something happened, but I just didn’t know what.”
But Ronnie said that he was grateful that it had brought him a “sense of closure.”
“I can bury my son,” he told the newspaper. “I’ve prayed that if he’s not on this Earth, that he’s with Jesus and with mama, and there’s no doubt they’ve all seen him by now and know what’s happened.”