23 Years After Pregnant Mom, Toddler Vanished, Car Found

Volunteers may have solved cold case
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2021 10:45 AM CDT
Found Car Could Solve 23-Year-Old Cold Case
Lake Dardanelle, in Arkansas, is the body of water where divers found a car they believe belonged to Samantha Hopper   (Norm Lane/Getty Images)

A pregnant woman put her 22-month-old daughter in her car, left to go to a concert, and never came home. Her car, with human remains inside, was found Tuesday—23 years later. Samantha Hopper’s plan was to drop off Courtney Holt, her toddler daughter, then go on to a concert in Little Rock. Instead, she disappeared; she was reported missing on Sept. 11, 1998. Her blue Ford Tempo was found this week in Russellville, Arkansas, by a nonprofit group in eight feet of water, NBC News reports. The remains will be sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for DNA testing, CNN reports.

The group that found the car, Adventures With Purpose, travels the country trying to help solve cold cases. In a video, they describe using descriptions of Hopper’s habits to narrow their focus. Then, they used sonar and divers to look in various areas of Lake Dardanelle. A diver found a car with no license plate—Hopper had just bought her car and didn’t have plates yet—put a magnet on it, and the group called 911. Rescue workers pulled the car out onto Pleasant View Road Bridge.

Hopper’s surviving daughter, Dezarae Carpenter, posted a memorial page asking for donations to give her mother, who was 9 months pregnant, according to the Carpenter, and sister a proper burial. “This has been such a relief to have found her,” she wrote. “The Pope County Sheriff’s Office would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Samantha Hopper and Courtney Holt, and we are thankful to have been a small part of helping bring this 23-year-old case to closure,” a statement posted on the Pope County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page said. (More strange stuff stories.)

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