BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who discovered a submerged car with human remains inside was decorating a Christmas tree at the time.
Brian Houseman was on a lift, putting the final touches on a tree outside Cook Funeral Home in Byron Center when he spotted a car submerged in a pond off 84th Street SW.
“All of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Whoa, there’s a car out there,’” Houseman told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “No one could ever see it. It was murky and things moved around.”
Houseman called the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, not knowing he just solved a nine-year-old missing person mystery.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team responded to the call around 9 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed there was a vehicle in the pond.
Wrecking crews pulled the mud-covered car from the water just before 11 a.m. and authorities discovered skeletal remains in the driver’s seat, presumed to be Davie Lee Niles.
“For us today, it’s a closure of a long search,” Niles son-in-law, Scott Hathaway, told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday. “Why God waited nine years, I have no idea, but we’re happy.”
Niles disappeared on Oct. 11, 2006. He was last seen at his regular watering hole, Jake’s Bar in Byron Township. Family members said he met a buddy there and then left suddenly, which family members said wasn’t unusual because he was dealing with discomfort caused by cancer. Niles was also dealing with depression.
As years passed, so too did their hope of finding him. In 2011, the family published an obituary.
“Davie Lee Niles, age 72, of Wyoming, passed away and only God knows the time and place,” the obituary read online.
The pond where Niles’ car was discovered is about half a mile from where he was last seen.
Niles’ family members showed up at the scene Tuesday to see where their loved one had been all this time. Relatives said the discovery gives them the closure they’ve been waiting for.
“It’s good to have him home,” Hathaway said.
“I’m just happy for that,” Houseman said upon hearing the family was relieved to have closure.
Kent County Sheriff’s investigators said they were waiting on dental records to positively identify the body. But they said that they do believe it is Niles because the vehicle was his and they found his wallet in the car.
They do not know what happened to him, but they do not suspect foul play.
“I don’t know that we’re ever going to be able to determine if it’s suicide or accidental.” said Kent County Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Gates. “[It’s] pretty bizarre.”
Anyone with information in this case is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6357 or Silent Observer at 616. 774.2345.