According to their website, since 2019, Adventures with Purpose have solved 23 missing person cold cases (I guess 24 now with Kiely’s case).
For anyone not familiar with the group, it is made up of volunteer divers who travel across America, looking for clues in missing person cold cases.
The group is based in Bend, Oregon and they have a very large social media following – they have almost 2.5m subscribers on Youtube and 1.4m followers on Facebook.
The group formed in 2019 and provide their services to families for free – they are funded by donations and advertising on their social media channels.
The group uses sonar equipment in their investigations. As well as divers, there are production crew members who film all the searches and document them on YouTube.
Doug Bishop is the lead investigator and diver for AWP. He told Fox 2 Detroit that Adventures with Purpose actually started out as an environmentalist group. The founder, Jared Leisek, was into diving and cleaning up waterways to help clean the environment.
“His efforts led to a vehicle being discovered underwater here in the city of Portland, Oregon,” Doug said. “Then he started focusing on just pulling vehicles out.”
Jared then paired up with Bishop, who owned a towing company, to start pulling vehicles from the water for environmental purposes and the organisation grew from there.
Doug has told the media that the use of sonar equipment is what separates the group from law enforcement. Sonar equipment can reveal what’s underwater that human eyes cannot see because it’s too dark.
“There’s no school, really that exists, that teaches sonar, Doug said, adding that he and the team have had to learn the equipment as they go on missions.
According to AWP, many police departments may have sonar equipment but may not understand all the technicalities that go along with it. Doug has also said that many LE agencies have reached out to AWP for help over the years.
Doug has also speculated on how many missing people he believes are actually in the water.
“There’s a lot of people that are missing, underwater in America,” he said. “I would estimate probably several thousand people.
“It happens all the time,” he continued. “Whether it’s an accident, whether it’s a suicide, murder.”
“We have developed a set of skills that have led us in this direction,” he said.
“I guess there is something there that’s extra in the universe that has guided us together on this journey to help mend families,” he added. “We’re just good guys trying to do good in the world.”
AWP list all the missing people that they have found on their website –
1 – Jed Hall
2- Dedrick Smith
3 – Jimmy Amabile
4 – Ralph Brown
5 – Virginia Collier
6- Margaret Shupe Smith
7- Annie Lee Hampton
8 – Stephanie Torres
9/10 – Samantha Hopper and Baby Courtney Holt
11- Nadine Moses
12 – Thomas Thornton
13 – John Zarkowski
14 – Richard Ritz
15 – Tammy Goff
16 – Antonio Amaro – Lopez
17 – Charles Fluharty
18 – Carey Mae Parker
19 – Jeff Shepherd
20 – Bill Simmons
21 – Ethan Kazmerzak
22 – Nicholas Allen
23 – Timothy Robinson
24 – Nathan Ashby
And of course now, Kiely Rodni.
Ethan Bert Kazmerzak was born on April 12, 1991. He was 22 when he went missing on September 15, 2013 in Hampton, Iowa.
This info about Ethan comes from his family:
He graduated from Hampton Dumont High School, Class of 2009. Ethan then attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City where he was a member of the University of Iowa Marching Band, concert band and writing
group, in which he had poems and short stories published.
He enjoyed volunteering at the Windsor Theatre in Hampton that his Great-Great Grandfather and Great Grandfather had owned and operated. Ethan was a member of the Hampton United Methodist Church. He enjoyed and participated in many
branches of the Arts. He played multiple instruments and was a member of the Hampton Municipal Band. Ethan was also active in events sponsored by the Franklin County Arts Council, especially drama productions. In his spare time Ethan enjoyed movies, reading, writing and theater.
Ethan also loved the Grateful Dead and got tattoo in honor of the band. His mother April said: “He was 18 and he knew he could do it, so he did it. I said ‘Why the Grateful Dead?’ he said ‘Well I love their music.’”
His family had a website at the time – findethan.com and according to that, he had been seen at several pubs on September 14, the night before he vanished.
It was reported that Ethan was last seen at a party at a gravel pit pond located behind a house in the 1400 block of 190th Street in Hampton.
Ethan’s phone was last used at 12.30am on September 15. He had called his mother just before this, at 12.15am. She missed the call and told the media:“That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said. “Did he leave a message, did it not go through, was he going to say something, wasn’t he? Yeah, I get to live with that.”
The last data from his phone came from the intersection of 190th Street and Olive Avenue. His bank accounts had not been accessed since the night of September 14.
Ethan went missing along with his vehicle, a silver 2006 VW Jetta.
Ethan’s family entered his DNA into Namus and they also provided his dental information.
At the time he disappeared, Franklin County Sheriff Larry Richtsmeier, a long-time friend of the family, said that he believed something criminal had happened to Ethan. This was due to the fact that the car hasn’t been found. Its VIN number and license plate were registered nationwide as missing and area junkyards have been searched.
Ethan’s family searched his apartment and said that nothing was disturbed,
Ethan’s family searched for him for years. His mother April spoke about the experience and said: “Yes, it changes you as a person. Yes, you’re not the same at all. Whether you let it drag you down or you go on and become a better, or much changed person … you just have to.”
As of 2020, the reward for information in his case stood at $100,000.
In September and October 2020, AWP traveled to Iowa to search for Ethan. They used their equipment on many different ponds in the area. They searched a few in September, without success. On Monday October 26, 2020, the team searched another pond that had been searched twice before. “Is your heart racing?” Jared Leisek asks another AWP member in a video posted to YouTube. “You’re choking up. I’m choking up.” They dropped a magnet to the spot, confirming an underwater vehicle.
Ethan’s VW was pulled from the pond with human remains inside.
Franklin County Sheriff Aaron Dodd confirmed the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office identified Ethan’s remains as the remains found in the vehicle.
“It was pretty easy to identify (Kazmerzak),” Dodd said.
As far as I can tell, no cause of death has ever been made public in Ethan’s case. I wonder if they would even be able to determine it, due to the length of time his remains were in the water?
There is an article from December 2020 that discusses AWP and their right to claim the $100k reward in Ethan’s case.
As of September 2020, the media had reported that the reward was still active.
But Hampton businessman Brad Staley, who coordinated the reward among the five original donors, said the money was pledged, not paid upfront, and was not renewed for 2020.
“As you can imagine, with pledges seven years after the fact, there would’ve been businesses that pledged that are no longer in business,” Staley said. “People that pledged that are no longer alive, people that pledged whose financial situations have severely changed.”
Jared from AWP spoke to the media about the reward “We never (pursued) Ethan’s case because there was a reward tied to it. (But) if you take away this reward, you have ruined the integrity of what rewards are there for.
“So we just ask a God-loving county of donors do what’s right in their hearts.”
I can’t find any further updates on AWP taking the reward issue further.
The next case solved by AWP was a really cold one. Samantha Jean Hopper and her 22 month old daughter Courtney Holt disappeared from Russelville, Arkansas on September 11 1998. I believe that Samantha was 8 months pregnant at the time.
Samantha was 19 at the time she disappeared. She told her mother that she and her daughter were going to a concert in Little Rock, Arkansas and that she planned to return home the following day. Articles state that Samantha also had another daughter, Dezirae, who was 3.5 years old at the time her mother disappeared. Dezirae was staying with her grandmother while her mother and sister attended the concert. Samantha was driving a Ford Tempo at the time, that went missing along with her.
Dezirae spoke to the media in 2018, 20 years after her mother disappeared.
“When you go through something traumatic like that at such a young age, the way you get through with it is just to forget,” she wept “It’s just easier to forget.”
A Detective Erick Riggs was assigned to this case around 2013. He asked Dezirae to complete a DNA swab that was submitted into a national database – I assume NAMUS. No matches were ever found.
“We know her social security number has never been used,” said the detective. “We also know that her last employer, there was a check waiting on her to come pick up.”
“There’s things like that, that point to this being a tragedy – that something went terribly wrong.”
In 2018, Samantha’s mother Debbie Mayhan said that they always kept their family home, just in case Samantha could ever make her way back there.
In October 2021, 23 years after Samantha disappeared, AWP traveled to Russellville to search for the mother and daughter.
AWP have said that they looked at Samantha’s habits and schedule to determine a possible route that she could have taken on the night she disappeared.
“Working from clues as to Samantha’s habits and events of that day in 1998, both dive teams split up to scan multiple locations in the area of Lake Dardanelle, with AWP taking the route along Mill Creek (and) sending Chaos Divers into the Illinois Bayou near Pleasant View Road,” a social media post read.
About an hour into the search, a discovery was made in the Illinois Bayou.
“Chaos Divers was able to sonar under one of the Pleasant View Road bridges, and as soon as the car was viewed on sonar, it was immediately identified as an overturned, small car, approximately 8 feet deep,” Chaos Divers reported on its own Facebook page.
On October 26, 2021, AWP called the Pope County Sheriff to let them know that they had found a car with human remains inside it. The car was a Ford Tempo that matched Samantha’s.
The Pope County Sheriff’s office arrived at the lake and contracted the help of Elmo’s Crane Service and Battlecross Towing to pull the car out of the 8-foot deep lake. The car was about 25-yards from the river bank.
Dezirae made the following statement:
‘After being missing for over 23 years, with the assistance of AWP and Chaos dive teams we were able to find my mother…and my 22 month old sister.’ She wrote.
Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones said, ‘The Pope County Sheriff’s Office would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Samantha Hopper and Courtney Holt. We are thankful to have been a small part of helping bring this 23-year-old case to closure.’
“It’s a 10-year case for me,” Detective Riggs said. “This is one of those cases your family knows about, your kids know about, and it’s emotional,” Riggs told the news station.
This info about the discover is from Kiro7.com
“While it was gut wrenching to have to see the tears stream down their faces as they were told the news, it was also incredibly heartwarming to see the smiles on their faces and the weight release from their shoulders knowing they were potentially bringing their loved ones home,” Chaos Divers’ post read.
Adventures with Purpose members agreed.
“It is our honor to have brought Samantha home,” the group’s Facebook post read. “Hug the ones you love for you never know when it might be the last time you see them.”
Obituaries have been published online for Samantha and Courtney and I just wanted to note a little bit about each of them:
Samantha was a free spirit and loved to travel. She loved spending time with her family. She was Daddy’s Girl and loved to fish with him. She was very spontaneous and adventurous. She loved her children more than anything and would do anything for them. She was charismatic, loyal, caring, and would always stick up for anyone who needed it.
Courtney was a doll and sweetheart to many. She had just started walking and saying papa. She loved to play with her sister and go wherever her papas went. She was her daddy’s butterfly. She loved snuggling with her daddy and chasing her big sister.
Another case solved by AWP is the case missing teen Matthew ‘Jed’ Hall. Jed went missing on January 22, 2018. It is believed he left his home in Idaho Falls at 6.51am on that day. He took a 9mm handgun and camping equipment and left in a 2009 Nissan Versa.
Jed left a note at home that indicated he may have been planning to take his own life. Jed’s family also found a journal after he left, where he wrote about being depressed. He also wrote in there about a possible backcountry trip and running away.
This info about Jed’s disappearance is from East Idaho News:
She explained the morning her son vanished started just like any other but as Amy Hall got ready for work, one thing stuck out. Jed’s bedroom door was left open and a note indicating he may attempt suicide was on his desk. The mother rushed to wake up her husband, Allen Hall, a former Idaho Falls Police Officer.
It is believed that Jed left home very early on January 22, 2018. Investigators found footage of him at his school, the American Heritage Charter School at 2.31am on that day. He broke a window, went to his friend’s locker where he left a note, cash and a necklace.
It is unclear where Jed went after that.
Police obtained ping information for Jed’s phone which show that the phone either died or was turned off at 648am on that day.
Its last “pinged” location showed the phone .43 miles southeast of the Verizon tower located at 1490 Lindsey Boulevard which includes a section of the Snake River, Highway 20 and is in close proximity of Interstate 15.
Due to the ping location, investigators believed that Jed and his vehicle may have entered the Snake River.
LE conducted at least three searches, including using the Bonneville County Sherrif’s Office Dive Team.
The team used sonar and underwater search equipment and searched areas that fell within the ping data region. No sign of Jed or his vehicle were found.
Jed’s mother Amy spoke to the media in 2020:
“The last almost three years have been hell,” Amy Hall, Jed’s mother, told EastIdahoNews.com. “Not knowing is really awful.”
Jed’s family made a facebook page for him titled Missing Jed Hall. They made this post in December 2021.
In Mid 2022, 4.5 years after Jed went missing, AWP reached out to the Idaho Falls Police Department about searching for him. On May 1, 2022 the team met with investigators at the Snake River Boat Launch.
Doug Bishop from AWP spoke to the media about Jed’s case and said:
“We came into this like we come into all cases. We determine if someone is missing and if someone is missing with a vehicle. We specialize in sonar the way that law enforcement doesn’t have the capability,” Doug explained. “Do we have a cellphone ping, a last known location? Locations that are frequented, etc. That’s how we base the waterways that we need to search and that’s how we choose those waterways.”
They only searched for a short time (20 minutes) before they discovered a Nissan Versa, 75 yards downstream from the boat ramp. The car was 50 feet from shore, in an area of water that was 8 feet deep.
A local towing company was called and they assisted with retrieving the vehicle.
“No true words can describe their reaction (when the vehicle was being pulled out of the river). As a parent of a 16-year-old that’s still hoping that their son is going to drive down the driveway any day still, seeing the vehicle that they have been looking for, for four years for the first time — no true words can describe that,” Doug said.
Human remains were discovered in the vehicle. Three days later on May 4, the remains were identified as belonging to Jed.
“In any missing person case, our sincere hope is to find the person alive and well,” said Bryce Johnson, Chief of the Idaho Falls Police Department. “While this is not the outcome we had hoped for we appreciate all those who have assisted in this investigation and the effort to provide answers to Jed’s family and loved ones. Our hearts are with the Hall family and all those who knew and loved Jed at this time.”
Interestingly, in both Jed and Ethan’s cases, the human remains were discovered in the backseat of the vehicles. Some people have speculated that this must mean there was foul play involved, but that isn’t the case. Doug from AWP has said:
“(It) is common in any scenario where someone does not have a seatbelt on. If you don’t have a seatbelt on, the body will move around the vehicle,” he said.
He said there is evidence that Jed’s vehicle has been in the water since he disappeared four years ago.
“There was scientific proof that the vehicle has been there for that long,” he said. “There was nothing alarming about the vehicle other than the front end rear window was out which is strictly due to current, extreme temperatures there in Idaho Falls in the winters and the debris that floats down the river. It was what it would have looked like in other scenarios that we’ve dealt with.”
This info about Jed comes from his obituary:
Jed was a kind person, very caring and helpful to others. He was interested in many things, and enjoyed travel with his family, camping, marksmanship, building stuff with many different materials and exploring.
He played soccer for years and was a valuable team player. He and a couple of his teammates always raced to take down the net after every game, and then hang by their hands on the crossbar as long as possible.
He was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and was a leader who was always ready to help fellow cadets. He had competed and won a spot at a summer camp with the Air Force Pararescue. Everyone in the squadron thought highly of him and respected him.
He was always ready with a batch of his handmade peanut brittle for any fundraiser or birthday. Jed LOVED water and was always happy playing in it whether it was the ocean, a lake or a pool. Some of his favorite time was spent on Lake James in Michigan fishing for Bass and catching sunfish.
The final AWP case that we will discuss in this blog is the recovery of missing woman Carey Mae Parker.
Carey was last seen March 17, 1991. At the time, the 23 year old mother of 3 was working for Flanders-Precisionaire (an air conditioning company) in Terrell, Texas and living with friends in Quinlan, Texas. Her children are Mandee, Brandy and Brian and they were all aged under 6. Two of the kids lived with their grandfather and one lived with her biological father. A media article from NBC says that Carey wanted to give the children a more stable life so she relinquished custody of them.
She drove a 1980 bluish-gray Buick Skylark, which went missing with her.
Carey’s sister spoke to Dateline and said that on the day she disappeared, March 17m 1991, Carey went to their father Howard’s house to do laundry and pick up a paycheck. It was Carey’s son’s birthday a few days later and Carey had been planning a party for him.
When the day of Brian’s birthday came, Carey did not show up to the party.
The family reported Carey missing after that. “My father told a constable she was missing, and [that constable] was supposed to have filed [a missing persons report] in 1991 in Hunt County,” Patricia told Dateline. After not hearing anything from the detectives who she thought were working on her sister’s case, Patricia filed a missing persons report herself in Terrell, Texas a few months later.
It turns out that the police never filed the report, and no investigation was ever conducted.
Terrell Police Captain A.D. Sampson told Dateline they did receive a call from Patricia in 1991 asking police to look into Carey Mae’s whereabouts; however, he says she did not file a missing persons report with the Terrell Police Department at that time.
In 2010, Patricia contacted the police to see if anything had changed with her sister’s case. That is when she discovered that police had taken the initial report as a ‘welfare check’ instead of a missing person report.
“I freaked out and called Brandy,” Patricia told Dateline. Brandy, Carey Mae’s middle child, was now 32 years old and had been helping search for her mother. “She called Hunt County and filed one over the phone.”
This meant that it took NINETEEN YEARS for a report to be officially filed in this case.
Carey’s daughter Brandy spoke to the media about this:
“They seemed put out by the idea that someone expected them to look for a woman who had been missing for 19 years at that time,” Brandy told Dateline. “I had to do the right thing for my mom.”
Sgt Jeff Haines was assigned to be the lead detective on Carey’s case. As so much time had passed since she disappeared, he found the investigation tough. “It’s been really hard since there was no physical crime scene to begin with,” Sgt. Haines said.
The Hunt County Sheriff’s Department made a similar statement in March 2018. “This has been a very challenging case since we didn’t actually have a location to begin our search for Carey Mae Parker,” the statement said.
“The investigation has thus far led investigators to track down family members and former associates of Ms. Parker’s across north Texas and even into Oklahoma which has resulted in no solid information on her possible whereabouts.”
Patricia provided DNA to databases in the hope that Carey could be found that way.
“We’ve been living without her for the last 27 years, so we’ve learned to adapt to this hole in our lives,” Brandy told Dateline. “It hurts us all, but the world still moved without her. And so we had to.”
In February 2021, AWP started to search for Carey, after her family requested their help. They started searching Lake Tawakoni and on February 4, 2021 they came across a Buick, matching the description of the one that Carey owned. The vehicle was found in 15 feet of water.
Carey’s sister Patricia made the following statement:
“It is with my deepest sadness (but peaceful heart) that today we did find Carey’s car off the 751 causeway where it has rested upside down in 15 ft of water for 30 years,” the statement read. “Tonight, they were only able to retrieve half of Carey’s car due to its deteriorated condition. At this time no remains were found, but honestly, I don’t anticipate there to be much if any.
LE made the following statement. “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 a 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.”
In October 2021, AWP traveled back to the area again to do another search. This time, they found human remains, a pair of pants, a shoe and a boy’s bicycle. It is believed that Carey had purchased the bike as a present for Brian for his birthday.
Her sister Patricia said:
“She will have to be identified through DNA, but I have no other reason to believe it is not her.’
In May 2022, the remains were confirmed to belong to Carey Mae.
This is the statement from the Sheriff following the confirmation:
On Tuesday, May 24, 2022 the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office received a Missing Persons DNA Report from UNTCHI in reference to Carey Mae Parker. It was confirmed that the remains that were recovered in October were those of Parker.
The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office again, would like to express their appreciation to the Adventures with a Purpose crew for the hard work and hours spent on this recovery. This thirty-one year old missing person case will now be closed. The Hunt County Sheriff’s Office will continue to pray for Carey Parkers family to have comfort and closure
This info comes from Carey’s obituary:
Carey passed away in mid-March of 1991, sometime around St Patrick’s Day.
Carey Mae Parker was born on May 12, 1967 in Dallas, TX, to Howard Parker and Elizabeth Parker. She was raised in Terrell, TX and moved to Wills Point in her early teens. Carey was a young mother, who loved celebrating holidays and creating fun memories with her three children. She was a strong-willed, free-spirited woman who enjoyed spending time on the lake and night driving with her kiddos. Carey disappeared in March of 1991 and it wasn’t until February of 2021 that her family learned she was in a car accident that left her and her car submerged in Lake Tawakoni for three decades. Thanks to the location and recovery efforts of a group of divers called Adventures with Purpose, Carey’s family now has answers and are able to bring her home to be laid to rest properly.
CLIPS USED IN THE PODCAST