Morgan Johnson of Plainfield, Indiana was missing for two years until police recently recovered his car from a pond using cell phone forensics, his body was still in the car.
About two months ago, Plainfield police Lt. Jeff Stephens, took over Johnson’s missing-person case. Stephens recently took a cellphone forensics class and attributes the discovery of Johnson’s car to the information learned in the class along with the sonar device with which police used to track the car.
In the forensics course, Stephens learned how to track the last signal from Johnson’s phone to a specific area. Using the technology from the course, Stephens was able to determine that Johnson was checking voice mail before his phone died, and he was able to establish that Johnson was within a mile of the pond where the car was discovered.
While the technology helped narrow down the area, there were 15 ponds in the vicinity of the last signal from the cellphone. On Thursday police searched 13 of the ponds.
This week, Stephens contacted Team Watters Sonar and Search Recovery Inc., a nonprofit in Moro, Illinois that specializes in assisting law enforcement in recovering remains, vehicles and other items using side imagine sonar equipment.
Dennis and Tammy Watters were inspired to start their nonprofit in 2005 after they discovered the car of a teacher who had been missing for three years, in the Mississippi river.
On Friday morning, using a drone boat with sonar technology, Johnson’s car was discovered in a pond just north of Interstate 70. The car was submerged at least 7 feet below the surface.
“We really never thought we were going to find anything in the pond. If it weren’t for this boat, that pond would not have been searched,” said Dennis Watters.
In May of 2011, Morgan Johnson lived in an extended stay hotel while he worked as a customer service representative at Brightpoint in Plainfield.
According to reports, he took a couple of days off to attend his grandfather’s funeral in Washington D.C., but his family said he never made it to his grandfather’s service.
About a month later, authorities issued a “silver alert” requesting assistance in the search for Morgan. At this time, there was a lot of media attention on the disappearance of Indiana University student Lauren Spierer.
Morgan’s family felt his case took a back seat to Spierer’s case, consequently, they filed a civil rights complaint against the Plainfield Police Department. They criticized the handling of the missing-person investigation and alleged the police were racists in their practices.
In the complaint filed with the Indiana Human Rights Commission, Ann and Carl Smith stated the police failed to explore all clues, did not check Johnson’s computer, and did not do an aerial search for his car, stated an article in the Indiana Star.
The Plainfield Police refuted the allegations and asserted that they followed up on every lead. According to investigators, nearly every detective on the Plainfield force has worked the case.
“We didn’t give up,” Stephens said. “We searched everything we could possibly search.”
Police contacted Morgan’s family on Friday and informed them of the discovery of Morgan’s car and the body. Cell phone forensics helped end this case and found the missing man.
By: Veverly Edwards