A YouTuber, Jeremy Sides, is responsible for having found the car that was being driven by Erin Foster and Jeremy Bechtel when they were last seen over 21 years ago.
Sides has been using his YouTube channel to document his searches and discoveries in missing persons cases around the country.
“I mainly find cases through a couple of websites that have huge databases full of missing persons cases,” he explained, and then added that he looks for ones he can work on using his underwater sonar equipment. “I look for cases where someone has vanished off the face of the planet and their car is also missing. Then I start digging deeper.”
That is exactly how Sides came upon the case of Erin Foster and Jeremy Bechtel who have been missing from White County since April 2000.
“This case really popped off to me because there is a river that runs through the town. It really intrigued me,” Sides said, but then admits, like many other investigators, his attention was drawn away from the river and to the western part of the county. “I heard stories about a party and realized there was a lake near where the party was, so that’s where I started my search.”
On Nov. 24, 2021, Sides thought that maybe he had found the teens who had been missing for more than two decades when he discovered a car in the lake near the Sligo Bridge, in DeKalb County.
“I found a car in that lake, but it wasn’t the right one. So, I started hopping bodies of water that were in the area – checking out different lakes and such,” Sides said of the week before he headed to the Calfkiller River, the water that had originally drawn him to look into the case in the first place.
When White County Sheriff Steve Page heard of Sides’ endeavors, he reached out to the YouTuber, what Sides says he feels was an effort to “feel him out and be sure he wasn’t just messing around.”
“The sheriff messaged me to kind of see what I was doing and what I knew and where I was going. I think he wanted to make sure we were working together,” Sides said about his initial conversations with Page. “Then he told me that I should search the river, he had some ideas that they had picked someone up in town and taken them down that road. He told me that he felt like the lakes were a waste of time.”
Sides, who had been intrigued by the thoughts of the Calfkiller River running through the center of Sparta from the beginning, followed the sheriff’s advice and, on Nov. 30, 2021, loaded his equipment into his boat and started searching the river along Highway 84.
“I saw something in the water that evening, but I ran out of daylight,” the YouTuber said and further stated that he put a pin in the location on his GPS so he could resume his search when there was daylight when he was able to dive down to get a better view.
“It was an indescribable array of emotions,” Sides said about the moment he matched the make, model, and license plate number to the vehicle his sonar was seeing at the bottom of the Calfkiller River to that of the vehicle owned by Erin Foster. “It’s a mixture of feelings of accomplishment and sadness, but also joy that now we know what happened. It’s bittersweet and overwhelming and emotional to be able to give people answers.”
Sides recalls Sheriff Steve Page being the first person to arrive to the scene, and he recalls the sheriff hugging him. He said the scene quickly became emotional as emergency responders and rescue workers began working to free the car from the water.
While the identities of the remains found in the car have not been released yet and the rest of the items that were in the vehicle are still being sorted through, and the White County Sheriff’s Department still has work to do before they can confirm if the case of missing persons Erin Foster and Jeremy Bechtel will be closed, Sides said his work here is done.
“Now everyone can heal and find peace. I feel good that I was able to help with that in some way,” Sides said, and then when asked, said that he will head out to help another community if he can. “There’s a case of a missing woman in North Carolina. She left a restaurant, and then she and her car just vanished. There’s a giant river right down the road, so I may head over there and see what I can find.”
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