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The body of a missing Florida mom has been located in her vehicle, which was found submerged in a large subdivision pond nearly two weeks after she mysteriously disappeared.
Venice Police said 44-year-old Tracey Lynn Rieker’s death is now being investigated as a “traffic crash," according to a statement from police.
Rieker disappeared around 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, leaving behind both her phone and wallet. Her husband, Christian Rieker, told local station WTVT that his wife’s behavior had been unusual before she disappeared.
“She was having trouble sleeping and wasn’t eating a whole lot,” he said. “[She was] really focused on her religious outreach, and so when we woke up. the car was gone and she was gone.”
After realizing she had left her cell phone behind, Christian Rieker called police, he said.
Venice Police said Rieker had been “frequenting local beaches to talk with people about God,” in the days before she disappeared and had made trips to Lido Beach and Bradenton Beach on Sept. 28—just two days before she left her home driving a green Nissan Xterra.
Jennifer Irvine, a representative for the family, also said in a media release that Tracey Rieker had also been “fasting for religious purposes” and a flier created about her disappearance mentioned she may have been “disheveled or delirious” after leaving the home.
Christian Rieker told the Venice Gondolier shortly after she disappeared that his wife had suffered from asthma as a child and had become increasingly unnerved as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The search for the missing mother of four came to a tragic end on Saturday when Venice Police “were directed to the location” of a submerged vehicle in a lake in Toscana Isles in North Venice.
With the help of specially trained K-9s, investigators identified an area of shoreline where they believed the vehicle likely entered the water.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office multi-jurisdictional Sheriff’s Underwater Recovery Force recovered the submerged Nissan Xterra with Rieker’s body inside around 11:45 a.m.
Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller told Oxygen.com the case is being investigated as a traffic homicide because a vehicle was involved in the death, which is standard protocol.
He declined to provide any additional details about the case.
Raysha Harris, a family friend, told the local paper that the Riekers had lived in Toscana Isles not far from where the vehicle was recovered.
“She just had this energy about her,” Harris said of her friend. “You would start talking to her and she could make friends with anyone. She just had that personality.”
Venice Police said an autopsy on the body was scheduled for Monday.
"Investigators will know more about Ms. Rieker's cause of death following the results, as well as a toxicity screening that could take 6 to 8 weeks," the city of Venice announced in a news release.
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