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A Former Mayor Went Missing A Year Ago. His Car Was Just Found Under 40 Feet Of Water With Human Remains Inside.

The car of a former Oregon mayor who went missing last May was found Friday 40 feet under the Willamette River in Newburg, Oregon, with human remains inside. 

Ralph Brown left his home in Cornelius, Oregon, on the evening of May 16, 2021, and never returned. According to his family, the 76-year-old suffered from dementia, and his last cell phone pings indicated that he drove in circles within a 30-mile radius from his home for four hours on the night he disappeared, according to CBS News.

“One of Brown’s adult children was able to reach him on the phone the night he went missing but said he sounded confused and was unable to describe where he was. Brown was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year before he went missing,” CBS reported. 

The Yamhill County medical examiner arrived on the scene after the remains were discovered but could not immediately identify them, authorities said, according to Oregon Live.

Brown’s family said he was possibly seen on three occasions up to a week after his disappearance and released a timeline of possible sightings, KEZI reported:

  • May 16, 6:30 p.m. — Brown leaves his home in Cornelius
  • May 17, 5 p.m. — Brown may have been seen in Newberg on Springbrook & Hwy 99
  • May 23, 2:30 p.m. — Possibly seen at the North Trailhead of Silver Falls
  • May 23, 5:10 p.m. — Possibly seen at gas station in Eagle Creek

Brown’s granddaughter, Megan Closson, said that on the night he went missing he told his wife he was going to “go home.” 

“He all of a sudden one night told my grandma ‘hey, I’m going to go home,’” Closson said, “[A]nd for him home was Astoria, [Oregon], that’s where he grew up, and so we were thinking that he was trying to head off to Astoria,” Closson said. “He grabbed the keys and she was disabled so she couldn’t get up to chase him. So he took the keys and he left, and I think he was trying to head to Astoria but he got confused and then he ended up this way.”

After nearly a year of searching for the former public servant, a team of divers found his blue 2014 Nissan Sentra last Friday. The divers had searched the area for Brown’s Sentra 10 times since he went missing and finally found the vehicle. 

“We just couldn’t let this one go,” Jared Leisek of Adventures With Purpose said, according to CBS. The group focuses on cracking missing persons cases and underwater mysteries and claims they have helped solve more than 20 cases since 2019.

Brown was a lifelong public servant. Along with being the mayor of Cornelius in the early 1980s, he served as Forest Grove School Board member and worked as a principal and vice principal in multiple Oregon public schools. 

“Although it is sad, it is not a sad day for us,” Closson said after her grandfather’s car was found. “It is a happy day that we get the closure that we had wanted for so long. When I first got the call from my mom I just broke down in tears — happy tears. Because I was so glad that someone was still doing something and that … they gave us the answers.”

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