SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – For 36 years, the mystery of what happened to Dana Null, 15, and Harry Wade Atchison, 19, lay at the bottom of a dark, murky South Florida canal. On Thursday, the answer to that mystery saw the light of the day, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
According to missing persons reports, Null and her boyfriend Atchison attended a rock concert of the band in Hollywood on October 7, 1978. Those missing persons reports reveal that after arriving at Atchison’s home, the couple apparently got into an argument and drove off in Atchison’s 1969 orange Dodge Coronet, never to be seen again.
More than 36 years later, BSO said the mystery of what happened to them is at least partially solved.
BSO said a South Florida Water Management worker had a piece of his equipment get stuck on the vehicle. Once he realized it was a submerged car he called Sunrise Police. BSO said investigators used the vehicle ID number in the car to link it to the 36-year-old missing persons case. However, they weren’t able to recover all of the vehicle.
“The back part of the car is just buried so deep,” said BSO Spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright. “We’re talking 36 years ago so I’m not sure how much of that we’ll be able to recover.”
The remains of the car were laid out on a Westway Tow Truck located just North of State Road 84 between 136th Avenue and Markham Park. The car was barely even recognizable as a vehicle when it was pulled out.
No bodies were found inside the car and investigators said that despite hours of searching by divers, they did not recover any remains.
But investigators say at least the families of Null and Atchison know a crucial clue about where the teens wound up the night they vanished.
“At least now they do have some of those answers,” said Coleman-Wright. “They don’t have to go another hour, another day, another year wondering what happened.”
Advocates for families of missing persons arrived at the scene on Thursday to learn more about the case. Alison McManus’ nephew — Mathew Stirling — lost his life in a South Florida canal in 2005. She started an organization called Guardians for the Missing to help other families suffering through a similar tragedy.
“He was missing for 6 months,” she said. “And it was horrible for the family just for 6 months. So I can’t even imagine for 36 years. I can’t even imagine. It’s the worst thing not knowing.”
As detectives try to unravel the mystery, advocates for missing person’s cases said these discoveries are what they live for.
“I try to get to that scene because I need to know so we can give some closure to some of those family members. It means the world,” said Dinorah Perry with the Missing Children International Ministries.