Coroner confirms remains found in car was Morgan Johnson - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Coroner confirms remains found in car was Morgan Johnson

Updated:
Morgan Johnson Morgan Johnson
The car was pulled from this retention pond. The car was pulled from this retention pond.
Morgan Johnson's car was pulled from the pond Friday. Morgan Johnson's car was pulled from the pond Friday.
A sonar team from Texas was brought in to explain the technology that helped police break the case. A sonar team from Texas was brought in to explain the technology that helped police break the case.
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PLAINFIELD -

The Hendricks County coroner, Joe Neuman, confirmed on Saturday that the remains found in a car in Plainfield on Friday were those of Morgan Johnson.  Dental records were used to identify the remains on Saturday.  The complete autopsy will not be finished until Sunday. 

Plainfield Police announced a huge break in the investigation into a missing man two years after he disappeared.

Morgan Johnson was last seen at a motel on Gateway Blvd. in Plainfield in May 2011. Police found his car Friday submerged in a pond on Perry Road with a body inside.

New cell phone forensics technology helped police narrow down the search area and led police to the pond. That's when the latest in sonar technology cut through the murky water and did the rest.

"We come this way all the time and never knew this was here," said Patricia Johnson, a friend and co-worker of Johnson.

But the retention pond right around the corner from where Patricia Johnson and Nicole Wallace worked with Morgan Johnson is exactly where police found the missing man's car.

"The vehicle that was recovered was a white 1995 Pontiac Grand Am that Mr. Johnson had been reported driving," said Chief Darel Krieger, Plainfield Police.

And inside that car, police found a body believed to be Johnson. The 27-year-old disappeared May 18, 2011 without a trace. He was last seen leaving his room at Value Place Motel only a mile away from where police discovered his car.

"Forensics absolutely solved this case. The fact that they never gave up also helped," said Dennis Watters, Watters Sonar Search and Rescue.

Watters actually built a drone boat that housed the sonar that helped police find the car.

"You can't get a conventional boat into this pond. Too small, too shallow," said Watters.

"The water is really murky. Three quarters of the pond is seven inches deep. I would have never thought it housed a car," said Lt. Jeff Stephens.

But the small remote-controlled boat found what no one else could in past searches of this same pond.

"This is the image where we were able to see. You can clearly see it's not an SUV or a pick-up, but clearly a car," said Lt. Stephens.

The discovery generated mixed emotions for Johnson's mother and friends.

"Honestly, I think she was happy to have closure and sad as well," said Lt. Stephens.

"There's always that ounce of hope that he's found," said Wallace.

"Even harder that he was so close yet so far away," said Patricia Johnson.

The Plainfield Police expect autopsy results as early as Saturday. Until then, the search for Morgan Johnson is suspended.

Case background

Morgan Johnson went missing in May 2011. He left a Plainfield motel and no one has seen him since.

His mother, Ann Smith, filed a civil rights complaint against the Plainfield Police Department in July 2011 demanding that Indiana State Police take over the investigation. She was protesting that her son's case did not receive the same comprehensive treatment seen in the case of Lauren Spierer, the Indiana University student who went missing in June 2011.

Smith posted a video to YouTube asking for help finding her son.

"I don't see how he could disappear and nobody can find anything on him. Nobody's seen him. His car hasn't been seen," said Johnson's stepfather Carl Smith in a November 2011 interview with Eyewitness News.

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