It was the sight of the bumper of her dad’s car as it was pulled from a North Carolina lake 43 years after he disappeared that really got to Pamela Shook Kolbe.
“Seeing that was really tough,” she tells PEOPLE. “But standing at the water’s edge, it felt good to stand there and look at the water and it just seemed so peaceful that he was not in there anymore.”
Now 57 and living in Tennessee, Kolbe was just 14 when her father, Amos Shook, a retired Air Force member, disappeared. Her parents were separated at the time and she was living with him in Sawmillls, North Carolina, a small town about an hour and a half from Charlotte. Kolbe remembers waking up and wondering where he was. “He was a good father he never left me alone,” she says.
Police at the time assumed Amos Shook had run off with another woman but Kolbe never thought so. “All these years I thought something tragic happened to him and thought maybe he’d been murdered,” she says.
She and a friend were working on genealogy charts in recent months when she decided to go back to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office near where she grew up in hopes of getting some old case files about her dad. Turns out, the department was already considering re-opening her dad’s missing persons case.
Lake Rhodhiss, a small lake near the family’s old home, was an obvious place to start. Last Monday, using sonar technology, divers found Kolbe’s dad’s old 1968 Pontiac – with his remains still inside.
Kolbe was shocked to get the call from investigators. “I was at work and it was just so overwhelming,” she says. “All my blood rushed out of me. It was unbelievable and overwhelming, it was like every emotion I’ve ever had all in one.”
It’s not clear how the car ended up in the lake, but the remains have been sent to the Medical Examiner’s Office to see if they can determine a cause of death after all this time.
But Kolbe says she’s just happy to have her dad back. “Just having his remains is a relief. I mean, we have him and that’s all we’ve ever wanted.”
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