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 February 14, 2024

Rest of missing man’s remains recovered

CAMDEN COUNTY – The Camden County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) says it has recovered the rest of Donnie Erwin’s remains from a pond off of Old South 5.

Erwin had been missing from Camden County since December of 2013.

On Saturday afternoon December 16, 2023 a CCSO 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 informed the property owner he was searching the area of Southern Camden County regarding the missing person case.

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 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. Investigators recovered Erwin’s Hyundai Elantra from the pond and notified his family of the development.

On December 23, 2013, detectives from the CCSO and cadaver dogs with Gateway Search Dogs, Inc returned again to the pond.

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.

The next morning 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 which included an artificial hip consistent with the one Erwin had.

Last Friday (February 9) detectives from the CCSO along with firefighters from the Mid-County Fire Protection District (MCFPD) returned to the pond where Erwin’s vehicle and partial remains were recovered in December. 

Due to the recent snow, ice, and wet weather the ground had been saturated and too soft to move in the heavy equipment needed to drain the pond.  MCFPD agreed that the ground was dry enough to go last Friday.

Using pumps on loan from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the FF14 Volunteer Fire Department and a pumper truck from the MCFPD drained the pond and recovered what they believe to be the rest of Erwin’s remains. His family was notified of the discovery.

“It has taken ten years to recover Mr. Erwin’s remains and it would not have been possible without the hundreds of law enforcement officers, firefighters and volunteers who helped conduct searches all over the country,” a spokesman for the CCSO said. “Mr. Erwin’s family has been through a lot, waiting to hear any news of his disappearance.” 

According to the CCSSO, more than 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year. Approximately 4,000 unidentified bodies are recovered annually from those 600,000. 

Missing person cases are difficult for families, communities and law enforcement agencies. If you know something about a missing person case in your area, the CCSO encourages you to contact your local law enforcement agency and help bring closure to a missing person’s family.

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