WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Adventures With Purpose, a team of expert divers, on Wednesday located three vehicles in the Brazos River near Brazos Park East, including the car that belonged to Stephanie Torres, 42, a local woman last seen on December 21, 2017 after leaving her home in the 700 block of Rusk Street.
Wednesday night, police confirmed the vehicle’s VIN matched Torres’ vehicle. Earlier Wednesday, both the dive team and a family member confirmed to KWTX that the vehicle, a dark blue or black Kia Rio, belonged to Torres.
“That vehicle is the vehicle was the vehicle we were looking for that belonged to Stephanie Torres,” said Doug Bishop, Recovery Expert and Cold Case Diver for Adventures With Purpose.
Police initially said the vehicle did not have a license plate, and detectives couldn’t officially confirm the vehicle belonged to Torres until they found the VIN to cross reference.
Police say a body was also recovered from the car but because of the current state of the body, investigators are not able to positively identify if it is Torres.
An autopsy has been ordered.
Members of Torres’ family shed tears after investigators pulled the car out of the river. Judge Lee was called to the scene and the family was notified, police said.
According to Waco Police, during the initial search for Torres, officers were told the woman may have been intoxicated and suicidal when she disappeared.
Police said the search for Torres came up empty and the case was suspended in February 2019 after no additional evidence came to light.
“When she disappeared, a search began for Ms. Torres, however, every lead had come up empty,” said Cierra Shipley, Public Information Officer for the Waco Police Dept. “No lead has brought us to the Brazos River, and that’s why our department has not searched the river for her and for this case.”
Waco PD did not call for the search.
However, detectives and the Waco Fire Dive Team responded to the scene after Adventures With Purpose notified them three submerged vehicles were found as a result of their own search.
Adventures With Purpose, a volunteer group based out of Oregon, doesn’t charge law enforcement or families for their services.
“We start topside with sonar and we locate vehicles underwater, we’re divers as well, so we’re able to dive on vehicles when we do find them,” said Bishop. “The fact that we were able to come together and utilize our resources, it was a really big community effort today, and it worked out successfully.”
Bishop said the river depth is about 13 feet, and the vehicles were between 75 and 100 feet out.
He said one of the other two vehicles they found was a stolen vehicle.
If the remains are determined to belong to Torres, Bishop says this will be AVP’s 21st case solved.
“That’s pretty rough, the not knowing, now the family is able to know and begin to move forward,” said Bishop.
This is a developing story. This article will be updated as soon as KWTX obtains new information.
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