Vanessa Smallwood was last seen in Cherry Hill on Jan. 27, 2014

By Robyn Merrett
January 20, 2020 11:57 PM
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Credit: FBI

The six-year search for a New Jersey woman has come to a tragic end after her body was found inside a car at the bottom of the Salem River.

The shocking break in the case came last week, on Jan 16. when divers from Walking Diving Underwater Construction Company were removing debris from the base of the river when they discovered the submerged car, New Jersey State Police shared in a statement on Facebook.

Members of the State Police Marine Services Bureau as well as a number of other emergency responders arrived on the scene and recovered the remains of a deceased adult woman, later identified as Vanessa Smallwood. She was 52.

Smallwood, a resident of Maple Shade, vanished without a trace on Jan. 27, 2014 after being seen in the Cherry Hill area, New Jersey State Police tell PEOPLE.

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Her cause of death is unknown at this time and her disappearance remains under investigation.

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Upon discovery, divers observed the vehicle where Smallwood’s remains were found was “badly mangled,” Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan said, the Associated Press reported.

Following her disappearance, the FBI released a missing person flyer, stating Smallwood was Any Garment Cleaners at the time of the incident. She was driving a 2005 Chryslers Town and Country van, according to the alert.

After around 10 a.m. that day, there was no activity on Smallwood’s credit or debit cards.

Smallwood’s family is far from having closure as they are now trying to understand what may have happened to her.

“[It’s] complete and total hell,” Smallwood’s cousin Jenuita Lobster told Fox 19. “Now comes the hard part: finding out the details.”

Lobster described Smallwood as being a “very small sweetheart.”

“Vanessa was very caring, especially when it came to family and her boys,” Lobster told Fox 19.

As Smallwood’s family continues to grasp the devastating news, they