A preliminary investigation has revealed that the human remains that were found in a submerged car Tuesday belonged to missing person Esther Westenbarger.
Yesterday, an autopsy was performed by a forensic pathologist at Community Howard Regional Health at the direction of Howard County Coroner Dr. Steven Seele. Preliminary investigation and evidence indicated that the vehicle was occupied by Westenbarger of Kokomo. However, this will be confirmed by forensic dentistry and/or DNA in the near future.
A cause of death has not yet been determined, and Seele said that continues to be investigated.
“A lot of the perspective with people is the autopsy gives us instant answers. No, sometimes it gives us answers, but it also creates questions that we’ve got to investigate to either say yay or nay on these types of things. So this makes it a lot more difficult,” said Seele.
Foul play is not suspected is Westenbarger's death.
On June 17, Howard County 911 Dispatch Center received a call regarding the possible discovery of a vehicle in a retention pond. The complainant advised dispatchers that they were fishing in the retention pond near the area of Webster Street and 300 North when they observed what they believed might be an algae covered vehicle at the bottom of the pond.
Officers from the Kokomo Police Department, along with deputies from the Howard County Sheriff’s Department, responded to the area. Once on scene, officers requested the assistance of the Howard County Sheriff Dive Team in order to recover the suspected vehicle.
A heavily algae-covered vehicle was pulled from the pond with a single occupant inside. The vehicle was identified as a gold 2005 Cadillac CTS bearing Ohio registration “MESTER”.
Westenbarger had been missing for nearly 11 years. She was last seen in November 2009 leaving a bar on foot to get to her vehicle that was parked at the Hoosier Bar.
This case is active and will remain under investigation by the Howard County Sheriff’s Office and Howard County Coroner’s Office. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Scott Waymire at 765-614-3463.