PUNTA GORDA - A nearly two decade old missing person case in Charlotte County may have been solved. Back in 1993, 64 year old Frances Hendrickson vanished from her Punta Gorda Isles home. Thursday investigators believe they pulled her car and possibly her remains from a nearby canal.
Hendrickson was last seen driving her blue station wagon with the license plate "SNO BURD" on it. "At some point there was just no more investigative leads to follow up on," says Capt. Tom Lewis.
From the start, investigators believed she had likely driven into one of the many canals in the undeveloped community. They searched for years. "It has certainly been our belief. We just have not had the technology to follow up on it."
Then things got even harder. "Hurricane Charley caused a lot of debris to be blown into canals. Dumpsters, the roofs off houses. Porta potties, you name it."
Wednesday, with help from the Sarasota and Lee County Sheriff's offices, using new sonar technology, an image was captured. It looks like the top of a station wagon.
Thursday crews diving down and bringing one up which was sitting 18 feet under water, covered in mud and barnacles. That's not all they found when it got back on land. "The Punta Gorda Fire Department assisted us with the jaws of life and actually opening the rear door. We were able to see some skeletal remains within."
Happening so long ago most neighbors like Marion McGrann never even knew. "Not until yesterday when I saw it on the news."
Many come out to see. "You see this on TV and crime shows but you don't expect to see it in person."
Neighbors at the time had described Hendrickson as someone who didn't like to drive and didn't do it often. The car was found just two blocks from her old home. "The biggest thing that we have right now is some comfort we are going to be able to give this family. Some closure. Closure for the family and community is what we strive for and what we were able to achieve today," says Lewis.
Forensic experts will now take the remains and conduct a DNA test to positively identify without a doubt who was found inside the car.
Punta Gorda police say they've contacted Hendrickson's family, who live in Connecticut.