When David Lee Niles, 72, suddenly disappeared one day, car and all, it was as if he literally fell off the edge of the earth. A long nine years passed without a hint of his whereabouts, until one day, a man putting up Christmas lights saw something in a nearby pond.
On the night of Oct. 11, 2006, Niles had been out spending the evening with a pal at a local pub, Jake’s Bar, in Byron Center, Michigan. Apparently, for some reason—probably feeling discomfort due to cancer—Niles had left the pub quite “abruptly” that night. Other than suffering from cancer, the aged man also struggled with depression at the time of his disappearance.
And that was the last anybody ever saw or heard from him. David Lee Niles simply vanished into thin air.
Nine years after Niles’s disappearance on Nov. 10, 2015, a man named Brian Houseman was on a lift, decorating a Christmas tree outside Cook Funeral Home in Byron Center, when he noticed an object in the nearby pond off 84th Street SW that looked a bit like a car.
What’s even more interesting is that this car-shaped object could clearly be seen submerged in the murky pond on a satellite image from Google Maps for years.
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) October 21, 2017
Mr. Houseman told WOOD-TV, “All of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Whoa, there’s a car out there.’ No one could ever see it. It was murky and things moved around.”
Mr. Houseman immediately called the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, who rushed to the site around 9 a.m. The mud-covered vehicle was exhumed from its watery grave just before 11 a.m., and the presumed decomposed skeletal remains of Niles were found inside the rusted, slimy old car. Fittingly, the pond where he was found is located less than a mile from where the elderly man had last been seen.
Later, Niles’s family and relatives gathered at the location where his car was found to pay their respects. Son-in-law Scott Hathaway said, “For us today, it’s a closure of a long search. Why God waited nine years, I have no idea, but we’re happy. It’s good to have him home.”
Police retrieved Niles’s wallet, making identification straightforward. In his obituary published in 2011, the family, who had lost all hope of finding him then, wrote: “Davie Lee Niles, age 72, of Wyoming, passed away and only God knows the time and place.”
The pond where Niles’s car was discovered is about half a mile from where he was last seen.
Kent County Sheriff’s investigators had no idea what happened to Niles on that fateful day; however, 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,” Kent County Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Gates said. “[It’s] pretty bizarre.”
Now the family can be at peace at last and so too can David Lee Niles. And Houseman was glad learning his discovery helped them get closure and move on. “I’m just happy for that,” he said.
May David Lee Niles rest in peace.
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