Human remains found in car belonging to pregnant mother who went missing with daughter over 20 years ago

Samantha Jean Hopper was nearly nine months pregnant when she went missing with daughter Courtney

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 29 October 2021 19:15
Human remains found 20 years after mother and daughter went missing
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Authorities in Arkansas have recovered a car matching the description of one belonging to a pregnant woman who went missing with her daughter over 20 years ago.

The Pope County Sheriff’s Office says the car was pulled from about eight feet of water on Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators then discovered human remains inside the car, the sheriff’s office said.

According to police, the vehicle description matches one belonging to Samantha Jean Hopper, 19, who was reported missing on 11 September 1998, along with her daughter, Courtney Holt.

Ms Hopper was nine months pregnant and her daughter was almost two years old when they disappeared.

According to the sheriff’s office, Ms Hopper was reported to have been driving to drop her daughter off before continuing on to a concert in Little Rock.

However, mother, daughter, and the blue Ford Tempo in which they were travelling were never found until Tuesday. It is unclear what transpired that led to the car ending up in the water.

The vehicle was discovered by a non-profit group called Adventures With Purpose, whose members travel the US working on cold cases.

An update to the organisation’s Facebook page says a team of divers met with the group on Tuesday, along with Ms Hopper’s mother Debbie Mahan, and another daughter, Dezarea Hopper, who was three years old at the time of her mother’s disappearance.

The post says that dive teams split up to span multiple locations in the area of Lake Dardanelle, with the group taking a route along Mill Creek, sending divers into the Illinois Bayou near Pleasant View Road.

A target was identified on sonar under the West Pleasant View Road Bridge, and the dive team found a blue Ford Tempo without a licence plate, as it was a new car when Ms Hopper drove it that day in 1998.

Along with the human remains, a car seat was found in the back of the vehicle, when it was hoisted out of the water, but it was not immediately obvious if her daughter’s remains were also inside the car.

The Arkansas State Crime Lab is examining the remains found in the vehicle in the hope of obtaining a positive identification using DNA from Debbie and Dezarea.

“The Pope County Sheriff’s Office would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Samantha Hopper and Courtney Holt, and we are thankful to have been a small part of helping bring this 23-year-old case to closure,” Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones said.

With reporting from The Associated Press

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