A 43-year-old mystery likely was solved Tuesday after authorities found the remains of Amos Shook – missing since 1972 – and identification cards in a 1968 Pontiac Catalina pulled from the bottom of Lake Rhodhiss in Caldwell County.
The green Catalina, filled with mud with the roof caved in, matched the car belonging to Shook on Feb. 19, 1972, when he was reported missing, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Capt. B.J. Fore said Wednesday.
“This case was so old we didn’t even have a report on it,” Fore said. “We were able to find skeletal remains, which led us to believe they belong to the man missing for 43 years.”
The remains were transferred to the N.C. chief medical examiner for an autopsy and official identification. Fore said there were no signs of foul play.
“We won’t know for sure if the remains belong to Mr. Shook until the medical examiner can confirm the identity,” he said. “But we believe it’s him.”
Sheriff Alan Jones said Shook’s wallet was found in the car with remarkably preserved identification cards.
The search for Shook, an Air Force veteran, was resumed after decades when his daughter approached Jones and investigators last month with a newspaper article about her missing father and asked them to search again. “We take a serious approach to all cases reported to the sheriff’s office and never consider a case closed until the truth is known,” Jones said in a statement.
Using advanced sonar from the North Catawba Fire and Rescue Dive Team, the outline of a car was spotted under 30 feet of water, Fore said.
“They probably dragged that lake back then looking for him, but now we have sonar,” he said. “We were able to identify what we believed to be his car at the bottom.”
The rescue was conducted from the lake’s boat landing on Waterwords Road, which looks entirely different today than it did 43 years ago. Divers from the SBI and North Catawba rescue team hooked the car to a wrecker that pulled the Pontiac to the surface.
Fore said all its windows were closed and intact. The roof had caved in.
Investigators don’t know how the car ended up in Lake Rhodhiss. Fore said he didn’t know why the search focused on the lake. He said the lead detective is interviewing relatives or anyone who knew Shook then about Shook’s state of mind at the time, but there’s were no reasons to believe he took his own life.
“Unless the medical examiner says the autopsy shows some type of foul play, we may never know what happened,” Fore said. “We don’t know his state of mind, and most of his family are probably in their 80s now. But we’re glad to have brought the family some closure.”