Fact Check

Man Missing for Decades Found Dead Using Google Earth?

The person who found him was checking out his old neighborhood in Florida.

Published April 18, 2024

Image courtesy of X/@Morbidful
A viral post in April 2024 accurately claimed a person checking out his old neighborhood on Google Earth found a man missing for 22 years dead in a pond.

In April 2024, a post on Reddit carried an aerial image of a house near a pond with a caption claiming a person checking out his old neighborhood on Google Earth found a man who'd been missing for two decades dead:

In 1997, William Moldt disappeared after leaving a club to go home. He wasn't found until 2019 when a man using Google Earth to check out his old neighborhood in Florida discovered a car submerged in a pond.

The post received 51,000 upvotes and 1,100 comments, as of this writing. A user on X also made the claim in January 2024, with more details (archived):

The satellite images revealed the guy's car submerged in the shallows of a lake.

This is a true story.

In August 2019, a former resident of the neighborhood of Grand Isles in Wellington, Florida, was examining his old area on Google Earth, when a white shape in a pond caught his eye. He took screen shots and sent them to his ex-wife, who still lived there. According to The Palm Beach Post, the woman recognized her neighbor Barry Fay's house and the pond behind it, and she forwarded the images to him, asking if he could see anything.

While he could see a shape that looked like a car on the screen shots, he could not see anything while standing on the edge of the pond. So he enlisted another neighbor, who owned a drone, to take more pictures over the water. Those images clearly showed a car just beneath the surface.?

The neighbors then called the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, who arrived that evening and worked into the night to pull the car out of the pond. In it, they found skeletal remains, confirmed two weeks later as those of William Moldt, who had disappeared one night in 1997.

Moldt, reportedly a 40-year-old mortgage broker and Lantana, Florida, resident, had called his girlfriend around 9:30 p.m., saying he would be heading home soon. Witnesses last saw him as he left a nightclub around 11 p.m. that night.


Webb, Kristina. 'UPDATE: How Google Earth Helped Find Man Missing since 1997 in Wellington Pond'. The Palm Beach Post, https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/2019/09/12/update-how-google-earth-helped-find-man-missing-since-1997-in-wellington-pond/2803958007/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Anna Rascou?t-Paz is based in Brooklyn, fluent in numerous languages and specializes in science and economic topics.

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