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Crime News

Teen Inadvertently Solves 27-Year-Old Cold Case After Discovering Car Submerged In Lake

Max Werenka, 13, was playing in the water when he found a sunken black Honda, prompting an unexpected investigation that ended in the discovery of the body of 69-year-old Janet Farris, who vanished in 1992.

By Eric Shorey
Body Recovered Pd

What seemed like an end-of-summer adventure turned into a police investigation when a Canadian teen swimming in a lake discovered the wreckage of a vehicle in the water that led to the solving of a decades-old missing person's case.

Max Werenka, 13, was playing in Griffin Lake in British Columbia, Canada when he found a submerged car approximately 10 feet from the TransCanada Highway. Using a GoPro, he captured footage of the car and began investigating online. 

During his research, he came across a story about a rescue mission that saved four people after their car fell in the water in 2009, according to The Washington Post. Assuming the car was left over from that incident, the Werenka family went about their business until they casually mentioned Max's discovery to a visiting Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. That's when things got more serious. 

“We just mentioned to that officer that there was a vehicle in the lake and we couldn’t believe that it wasn’t retrieved from the original rescue,” said Nancy Werenka, Max's mother, to The Post. “He said to us, 'Well, no actually, pretty sure that vehicle was retrieved out of the lake, so we need to investigate this further.’"

A dive team was ultimately called in to examine the site on Aug. 21, a few days after Max had found the car. They discovered a woman's body in the vehicle.

Cpl. Thomas Blakney explained how Max's finding led to the grim realization.

“They were able to dive down, obtain a license plate,” Blakney told CTV News Vancouver. “It came back to a missing person case back in 1992.”

With the plates, police were able to track down information on the owner of the vehicle: 69-year-old Janet Farris from Vancouver Island, who had mysteriously disappeared 27 years ago. Farris had vanished while driving to a wedding in Alberta. 

Police do not believe the Farris death was suspicious. The sunken black Honda will be brought to land and inspected for clues as to what went wrong.

Her family now finally has closure on what happened to their beloved relative.

“After the first year, you just carry on,” George Farris, son of Janet Farris, said to CTV Vancouver News. “You come to live with it.”

Meanwhile, young Max seems happy to have assisted in the case.

“I couldn’t imagine for that many years, not understanding what happened to a love one,” Max told CTV Vancouver News. “If [it] was something that could have helped anyone, why not try.”