Missing Fla. Mom Is Found Dead Inside Submerged Vehicle in Pond as Police Continue to Investigate
The body of a married Florida mom of four who vanished in the middle of the night has been found inside a submerged SUV – and authorities are investigating it as a traffic homicide.
On Sept. 30, Tracey Lynn Rieker, 44, of Venice, left her home at about 3 a.m. and hadn’t been heard from since.
Her husband said she left her phone and wallet behind – and had been acting differently before she vanished, Fox 13 News reports.
After searching for Rieker for more than a week, on Saturday investigators were “directed to the location of a submerged vehicle in a lake in Toscana Isles in North Venice,” the city of Venice says in a statement.
Specially-trained K9s with Sarasota K9 Search & Rescue were deployed in a boat, looking for any sign of the green Nissan Xterra Rieker was driving when she left home.
“As investigators began to search the shoreline near where the K9s alerted, they found signs indicating a vehicle likely entered the water,” the statement says.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office multi-jurisdictional SURF (Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Force) team joined the search and at approximately 11:45 a.m., divers were able to locate and recover the Xterra, with Rieker’s body inside.
“The case is being investigated as a traffic crash that involved death of an involved party,” the Venice Police Department said in the release.
“An investigation continues to determine Rieker’s cause of death.”
The medical examiner is scheduled to perform an autopsy on 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 the news release.
Rieker’s husband, Christian Rieker, said that she had been acting differently before she vanished, Fox 13 reports.
"She was having trouble sleeping and wasn't eating a whole lot,” he said.
“When we woke up the car was gone and she was gone, her car and her purse were still at home... so we just called the authorities," Christian said.
"I actually called her phone thinking that she'd have it and then noticed it was ringing in the house."
In recent months, Rieker had been focusing a lot on religion and talking to others about God, especially amid the pandemic, her husband told the outlet.
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She had also been "fasting for religious purposes,” Jennifer Irvine, a representative for the family said, Fox 13 reports.
Days after she disappeared, her husband appealed for her safe return on WFLA 8.
“Tracey, honey, we need you, we love you," he said. "You’re so missed. Wherever you are, I pray you’re safe, wherever you are, we just want you back."
In a statement family members released on Saturday, they said, "Our family is grateful for the outpouring of support and donations of both time and resources in the search for Tracey,” Fox 13 reports.
“The outcome of the investigation is shocking and devastating, and we wish this could have been investigated sooner to bring needed closure for the family. At this time, we are grieving as an extended and cohesive family unit, and request privacy while we work through this."
Police continue to investigate.