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Man Who Vanished 20 Years Ago Believed Found By YouTube Cold Case Divers In Pennsylvania Creek
James Amabile and his SUV went missing in 2003 and authorities have been stumped ever since. But a private service dedicated to helping families find missing loved ones believes they've now recovered his body.
The suspected human remains of a 38-year-old Pennsylvania man who disappeared nearly two decades ago were found in a large creek over the weekend by a team of volunteer cold case divers.
James Amabile vanished on Dec. 4, 2003. He was reported missing after he didn’t show up to pick up his daughters from the girls' babysitter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. His cell phone last pinged off a tower near a local police station and the Ford Explorer he was believed to have been driving was never found.
For nearly 20 years, investigators were unable to solve his mysterious disappearance.
On March 19, local authorities responded to Darby Creek in Ridley Park — just southwest of Philadelphia — after reports that a missing vehicle had been found submerged in the body of water.
“Divers recovered a license plate from the vehicle along with human remains,” Ridley Township Police Department said in a statement on Saturday.
The license plate, law enforcement said, matched a “missing person entry from December 2003.” A man’s remains were reportedly found still strapped into the driver’s seat.
The Ridley Township Police Department, who haven’t yet confirmed Amabile’s identity, are now waiting on an autopsy from the Delaware County Medical Examiner’s Office. Amabile’s cause and manner of death are still under review, according to officials.
Police credited Adventures With Purpose, a search and rescue cold case dive team, who located the Amabile’s vehicle using specialized sonar equipment. They later tipped off authorities.
"It’s my brother," the victim's brother Stephen Amabile told the Inquirer. "They found him. … I’ve gotten used to not expecting anything, and I tuned a lot of things out. But it didn’t take them very long to figure out there was an SUV down there.""
Stephen Amabile, who described the past 20 years as “purgatory,” said the discovery has provided a sliver of closure.
“Your brain goes crazy, and you try to figure it out, but there was never any closure, zero, none,” he described. “Not until I was standing on that dock and he was 20 feet below me.”
James Amabile’s relatives described him as a “family man devoted to his two daughters,” the Inquirer reported. He worked the night shift at a United Parcel Service center in South Philadelphia, and had an implanted diabetic insulin pump to help control the symptoms of diabetes.
Adventures With Purpose, who say they’ve solved 19 cold cases since 2019, have more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube. They also confirmed the discovery of Amabile’s suspected remains over the weekend.
“We believe what we have discovered is Jame Amabile’s vehicle," cold case diver Doug Bishop, who works with Adventures With Purpose, said during a YouTube live stream. "Now, there will have to be a thorough examining process from the medical and coroner’s office to make that actual determination but we are confident we have discovered not only Mr. Amabile’s vehicle but his human remains, as well.”
The team of cold case divers suspect Amabile may have suffered a “diabetic episode” at the time his vehicle plunged into Darby Creek.
“We traced Mr. Amabile’s footsteps that morning,” Bishop added. “Our specialty is water. So we then retraced his footsteps from his house to the babysitter’s house, ruling out bodies of water. We ruled out about two or three locations that crossed over waterways, they weren’t deep enough. It led our search investigation to Stinger’s Waterfront where we discovered a vehicle 24 feet deep underwater.”
Stinger's Waterfront is a restaurant in the township-owned marina building; it opened in 2017, the DelCo Times reported. The township purchased the marina from a private owner in 2002 and spent 15 years demolishing the dilapidated buildings and docks that had been there when Amabile disappeared, the paper reported.
A contractor drilling pylons for the upgraded facilities reportedly drilled directly through Amabile's engine bay, the Inquirer reported.
No further information regarding the case has been released by authorities. A spokesperson for the Ridley Township Police Department didn’t immediately reply to questions surrounding the case on Monday morning.