Human remains found in submerged car belonging to former Oregon mayor who went missing one year ago

Almost exactly a year after the former mayor of Cornelius, Oregon, went missing, authorities say the man’s car has been found at the bottom of a river with human remains inside.

The vehicle belonging to 77-year-old Ralph Brown was found Friday by a dive crew 40-feet below the surface of the Willamette River in Newberg, according  to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The human remains in the car have not yet been identified.

Brown was last seen leaving his Cornelius home in a Blue Nissan Sentra on May 16, 2021. Cellphone records indicated that he drove in circles for four hours within a 30-mile radius from home before he disappeared, CBS affiliate KOIN-TV reported.

One of Brown’s adult children was able to reach him on the phone the night he went missing but said he sounded confused and was unable to describe where he was. Brown was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year before he went missing.

Law enforcement and more than 200 volunteers searched for Brown, who is a former teacher and principal in the Hillsboro School District and served was mayor of Cornelius in the early 1980s, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Brown’s car was found on Friday by Adventures With Purpose, a group of divers who travel the country, volunteering to solve underwater mysteries and missing person cold cases. The team had searched the area for the car 10 times in the past year.

“We just couldn’t let this one go,” said Jared Leisek of Adventures With Purpose. 

The group says they have helped solve more than 20 cold cases since 2019. In March, the divers said they found the body of a Pennsylvania man who went missing in December 2003.  And in January, the group located three cars in the Brazos River in Texas, including one driven by a woman who went missing more than four years ago.

Adventures With Purpose is among an increasing number of sleuthing YouTubers who try to independently solve cold cases around the country. The group posts its searches on its YouTube channel, which has more than 2 million subscribers. 

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