By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
It’s not every day a car gets pulled from the Willamette River at Keizer Rapids Park.
But that’s just what unfolded this week.
On Monday, a Hyundai Elantra wagon was towed out of the river, after having been originally spotted in the water on Dec. 28.
“We don’t know where or when the car was put in,” officer Rod Bamford with the Keizer Police Department said. “It was put in at least a week ago. We had some people that could see the roof in the river last week, but the water was too high to get out there. A Marion County deputy with marine patrol took a boat out and got the license plate, but we couldn’t recover it at that point.”
Armed with the plate information, officers were able to determine the vehicle was stolen.
Lt. Andrew Copeland with the KPD said the case goes back more than a year and a half.
“The vehicle was reported stolen on May 4, 2014,” Copeland said. “The unknown suspect drove the stolen vehicle into the river several months ago. We were unable to recover the stolen vehicle initially because the water was still too high, but the water receded enough for us to access the vehicle and tow it out of the area.”
Keizer Public Works Director Bill Lawyer mentioned the case during Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting and noted the Hyundai had Washington plates on it, though the vehicle had been stolen from a Keizer driveway.
“Someone tried to get rid of it and it didn’t work,” Lawyer said.
Jerry Nuttbrock towed the vehicle out Monday, as Bamford and a Public Works employee were on hand.
“I know cars are dumped into lakes,” Bamford said. “But this is my first time in 22 years of law enforcement I’ve recovered a stolen vehicle in that matter.”
Bamford said the Hyundai’s owner was glad the car was recovered, in part because her insurance company hadn’t given out full payment because it was unknown if the vehicle was a total loss or not.
“I don’t believe there is a way to determine when the vehicle was put in,” he said. “We’re not going to waste taxpayer resources trying to figure that out. It was evident it had been in there for quite some time. It was originally silver. With the amount of grime on it from being in the river, that was consistent with it being in for quite some time.”
Both Bamford and Copeland said the amount of water damage meant there was no way to get any fingerprint or DNA evidence to trace a suspect.