The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.

 

Published December 27, 2023

Major break in 10-year missing man case

CAMDEN COUNTY – A major break in a 10-year case has come to light and may end the decade-long search for Donald Erwin.

On Saturday afternoon December 16, a Camden County Sheriff’s Office detective received a phone call from a property owner in Southern Camden County. The property owner described having been contacted by a freelance videographer and drone pilot, James Hinkle, owner/operator of Sounds Like Videos.

Hinkle is working with Beyond the Case and their behavior analyst.

Hinkle informed the property owner he was searching the area of Southern Camden County regarding the missing person case of Donald L Erwin, who went missing from Camden County in December of 2013.

Hinkle said he thought he had located a vehicle submerged in a small pond on private property while flying his drone earlier in the week. He arranged with the property owner to search the area on foot and by kayak and found a light-colored submerged passenger car in the pond.

Hinkle has been interested in the Erwin missing person case for many years and operates the YouTube channel, Echo Divers.

Deputies and detectives from the Camden County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) as well as members of the Mid-County Fire Protection District Dive Team responded to the area and met with Hinkle and the property owner.

Divers searched the pond and verified the license plate on the submerged vehicle matched the plate on Erwin’s missing Hyundai.

With assistance from Bledsoe’s Conoco, investigators recovered Erwin’s Hyundai Elantra from the pond and notified his family of the development.

Last Saturday (December 23) detectives from the CCSO and cadaver dogs with Gateway Search Dogs, Inc returned again to the pond where Erwin’s Hyundai was recovered.

The investigators have been searching the pond and the immediate surrounding area since the car was discovered.

Despite the length of time since Erwin's disappearance, the cadaver dogs alerted to the presence of human remains in the pond. The dogs concentrated on one area near the center of the pond indicating that was the most likely location of the remains.

Last Sunday morning at approximately 9:00 a.m., detectives returned to the area again with divers from the Mid-County Fire Protection District. Divers searched the area the cadaver dogs indicated and recovered human remains from the pond.

In addition to human remains, investigators recovered an artificial hip consistent with the one Erwin had.

While a forensic pathologist will have to examine the remains to determine for certain if they are indeed those of Erwin, investigators are confident the hip and remains belong to him.
 
Once the remains were found, investigators immediately notified Erwin’s family of the recovery.

“All of us at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office who have investigated this case for ten years are elated at the recovery and overjoyed with the closure we know this brings to the family,” a CCSO spokesman said. “This development would not have been possible without the assistance of countless volunteers throughout the years. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all.”  

Cutline: A Hyundai Elantra belonging to Donald Erwin was pulled from a pond in Camden County. Erwin has been missing since December of 2013. (Photo provided)

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