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Group: Forensic Dive Team To Search Lake For Missing Woman’s Remains

Investigators in northeast Texas are convinced that a vehicle recovered from Lake Tawakoni last week belonged to Carey Mae Parker, who went missing in 1991.

A private search and recovery group discovered the 1980 Buick Skylark on Feb. 4 near a causeway about five miles from Parker’s family home. There were no signs of human remains in or around the vehicle, members of the dive team said. 


Searchers used a crane and briefly shut down the causeway during the process. The operation was first reported by the Hunt County Theft Reports news website.

Ericka Miller, a press secretary for the Texas Department of Public Safety, declined to say this week if DPS officers were following up in the area.

But one of the divers who located the vehicle said Friday that a forensic dive team was preparing to continue searches of the same area.

“Yes, they do have a forensic dive team coming in to search for her and more of the car,” Jared Leisek said. “She was not inside the car. There's a forensic dive team, they'll be going back to clean up the area. And hopefully they'll be able to bring … her home.”

Leisek’s group, Bend, Oregon-based Adventures with Purpose, has recovered at least two dozen vehicles including several involved in missing person cases.

The Hunt Co. Sheriff's Office said it was processing the vehicle for evidence.

"I would like to thank the family of Carey Mae Parker for having the persistence and drive to keep pushing forward to find answers in the disappearance of their family member," Sheriff Terry Jones said in an emailed statement.

"It was a privilege for the sheriff’s office to be able to work with the family and Adventures with Purpose to come one step closer to bringing closure to this case, which has been needed for many years," Jones said.

In December 2020, one of Parker’s children contacted Adventures with Purpose seeking its assistance. This year, while the group was in Texas, one of Parker’s siblings helped divers locate areas of interest around Lake Tawakoni. After several hours at the lake Feb. 4, divers finally located the vehicle. 

A missing person poster displays a vehicle similar to Carey Mae Parker's 1980 Buick Skylark.
Credit Texas Advocates for the Missing
A missing person poster displays a vehicle similar to Carey Mae Parker's 1980 Buick Skylark.

Parker registered the Buick Skylark in Van Zandt County before going missing in late February or early March 1991, according to records obtained by KETR.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles documented the title transfer from its previous owner, Velma Henderson, on Feb. 27, 1991. Parker registered the Buick to her father’s P.O. Box in Wills Point, TX. The box was about five miles from the area where divers found the car, in Waco Bay. 

In the days since the discovery, Parker's family members tried to put into words the feeling of finding answers after so many years of searching.

In a video uploaded to Facebook, Parker’s sister Patricia Gager pointed out the area where the Buick had been resting for nearly three decades.

“How many times we went across this bridge, and she was here the whole time,” Gager said, aiming the camera toward the water. “I'm sorry you had to lay there so long. But we know where you are. And we love you.”

Parker’s youngest sister Mary Shelby and youngest daughter Mandee Taylor joined Gager and other relatives to toss flowers into the lake from a nearby marina.

"I am still in shock," Brian Parker, the missing woman's oldest child, wrote the day after the discovery. "I don't know how to process this. 30 years!"

Search Resumes For Missing Northeast Texas Woman

The last major search was two years earlier, also near the causeway.

A canine group spent a long weekend in January 2019 scouring land linked to Parker, including her parents' former property. That search and one that followed it about a month later seemed to rule out rumors about bodies in the area — bodies that Parker’s late father claimed to have buried. 

At her sister's request, searchers also examined properties connected to a man Parker was dating several months prior to her disappearance. Parker’s father and others spent years accusing the man, Cody Songer, of involvement. 

In 2016, a Hunt County detective traveled to Oklahoma and questionedSonger. He denied involvement and offered to undergo a polygraph exam, according to records obtained by KETR the following year. He also encouraged investigators to search the property where his family lived in the 1990s. 

On Monday, Parker's daughter Brandy Hathcock publicly apologized to Songer and others who were accused by members of her mother’s family.

“I can’t even grasp the impact of an entire community thinking he was responsible for her death,” Hathcock wrote on Facebook. “There’s no way we can make it right, or undo the damage done to his life, but I’m so sorry this all happened to him.”

George Hale is a radio reporter for KETR and the host of its investigative podcast Buried.
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