UPDATE: Police identify remains found in submerged car, search for clues about death

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BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (08/22/17) - There are still more questions than answers after a man's remains were found inside a car submerged in a Buena Vista Township pond.

A contractor for the Michigan Department of Transportation discovered a 1973 Buick Electra while diving in the pond on Aug. 15. The contractor was cleaning up barrels found in the pond.

Police had the car removed from the pond, then discovered the remains.

D/Sgt. Greg Klecker, with the Buena Vista Township Police Department, said they believe the remains are Julius Colwye. The 61 year old was reported missing in October of 1984.

A key piece of evidence included in the original 1984 missing person file helped identify him.

"What you do at the front end of a case investigation can really be valuable, just like today," Klecker said. "We look at, and we rely on, the original work that a detective did, and we're grateful for the work that detective did."

Nearly 33 years ago, a detective added Colwye's dental records to his file, just in case.

While investigators can't say the remains are positively those of Colwye's, the dental records, which do not include x-rays, are consistent with those of the remains. The Buick Electra also was Colwye's.

Now the focus shifts from identification to cause of death.

Since the beginning, Colwye's disappearance has been considered suspicious.

"They suspected foul play because why would he voluntarily just go missing," Klecker said.

Disappearing was out of character for Colwye, who many people called Pete, instead of his given name of Julius.

Back in the day, detectives searched several places for Colwye.

"They did drag the river," Klecker said.

Klecker is now trying to track down aerial photos of the land from the '80s.

"Vehicle was found in that pond in, you know, a certain position. We're just trying to figure out from a logistics standpoint, how did it end up in that position," he said.

Klecker also wants to talk to people who knew Colwye before he disappeared, so he can finish what the other detectives started.

"They did everything they could, they exhausted their efforts and at a certain point the case goes cold, and then you still don't have any discoveries, then it's a mystery," Klecker said.

If you have information that could help, call D/Sgt. Klecker at 989-753-7790 or the tip line at 989-233-2363.

(08/21/17) - New developments in the investigation of a body, found submerged in a mid-Michigan pond.

The vehicle pulled from the water last week is believed to have been there for decades.

The property in Buena Vista Township is owned by MDOT and was gated to keep cars out.

The removal of some 50-gallon drums in the pond also led to the discovery of the car.

In a report released Monday, police reveal there's a high probability the body inside was that of Julius Colwye.

He was 61 years old when he was reported missing on October 1st, 1984.

Colwye was a resident of Buena Vista Township and an archived news article shows his disappearance was considered suspicious in nature.

After a forensic exam of the skeletal remains, the case and manner of death is still uncertain.

Anyone who remembers something from that mid-80's October is asked to call police.


(08/17/17) - ABC12 News has learned the body of a man found earlier this week in a Saginaw County pond possibly dates back to a decades-old missing persons case.

Neighbors say the Buena Vista Township man just disappeared one day in October of 1984.

Everyone we talked to referred to the man as Pete, which is not his given name, and one man we spoke with Thursday says he remembers another strange occurrence around the time of Pete's disappearance.

“Pete was a helluva nice guy, a good-hearted fellow … he kind of put you in mind of Santa Claus,” said Robert Porter.

Porter says ‘Pete’, or ‘Mr. Pete’, lived on 24th Street in Buena Vista Township.

One neighbor who didn't want to be identified remembers what happened nearly 33 years ago.

“I remember Oct. 1 or third, he disappeared,” she said.

She says as soon as her family saw news coverage of the car being pulled out of a Buena Vista Township pond on Tuesday afternoon, they all said, “that's Pete's car.”

“He was a real nice man, he took time with the little kids,” she said.

Police are not confirming the identity of the remains found in the car, as forensic testing has not been completed, and we are not releasing the possible victim's full name.

Neighbors say he was 62 years old at the time of the disappearance. He had recently retired from General Motors when he vanished.

“Him and my dad used to work at Malleable Iron many, many years ago,” Porter said.

Porter owns a hair salon not far from where Pete lived. He remembers when Pete disappeared - and something else.

“It just happened to be the same time a builder left town owing some money to Wickes Lumber Company, at the same time, Pete had talked to me in the barber shop and he told me he had an appointment to go meet with this guy,” he said.

Police are checking on that lead, but it's not clear how the person, whose remains were found in the 70's-style car, died.

Porter now wonders if the disappearance of Pete and that contractor were related.

“It's been sticking in my craw ever since then, because Pete was a good guy,” he said.

The man known as Pete was married and his wife is still alive. Neighbors tell us he had two children.


(08/16/17) - It could be some time before detectives have solid clues to work with after remains were found in a car, submerged in a pond.

D/Sgt. Greg Klecker, with the Buena Vista Township Police Department, said a forensic pathology exam is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Remains were found inside a car Tuesday.

The car was made in the 1970's, but police haven't said how long they think the car was in the pond along I-75.

The forensic pathology exam is different than an autopsy, which would be performed on a body of a recently deceased person.

"Now you're examining bones that have been dormant for a long time, and so it's a different examination by a pathologist than a normal tissue pathology. So they'll go in a bit further detail," Klecker said.

He said if you've seen the TV show "Bones", you would have a good understanding of the exam that has to take place.

Environmental contractors working for M-DOT found the car Tuesday while they were removing 50 gallon drums from a pond on M-DOT property.

Police called in a tow truck driver to get it out. Once it was on land, the person's remains were found.

Klecker said two key things have to happen before they say any more about the case.

They need to confirm the identity of the person and figure out how they died.

He said this is a bittersweet time for a family and wants to make sure family members get any information before the rest of the public.

"On one hand, you've got the discovery of maybe a missing loved one. On the other hand, just brings back all those memories, and of course it's a very emotional thing, and that's why we don't want to be preemptive in any decision-making process and trying to make some conclusion without really having it backed up by forensic science," Klecker said.

We will share additional updates as police release information.

(08/15/17) - Buena Vista Township Police are investigating the discovery of a body in a car, submerged in a pond.

The pond is on property owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"We're actually on M-DOT right-of-way here, it was obtained back when we were building I-75 through this stretch of area. Overall, it's all fenced off and we don't allow any trespassing back here," said Gregg Brunner, associate region engineer for M-DOT.

Police were called to the property after environmental contractors for M-DOT found the car.

The contractors were there to remove 50 gallon drums submerged in the water.

Several months ago, an unknown person reported the drums to M-DOT. Brunner said it was M-DOT"s responsibility to remove them.

Once police arrived, they called in a tow company to remove the car from the pond.

The body was discovered after the car was removed from the water.

D/Sgt. Greg Klecker was notified of the discovery shortly after 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.

"We've got the MSP Crime Lab out here and it's going to be a long day and we'll determine more later, but now it's just suspicious," Klecker said.

Police have not said if it is a man or woman's body in the car, nor have they estimated how long the body has been there.

They also don't know how the person died.

Police confirmed it appears to be a 1970's model car.

The Michigan State Police Crime Lab out of Bridgeport Township has been called in to investigate.

We'll update you as police release new information.

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