Woman's Remains Found in Submerged Car 31 Years After She Went Missing, Death Ruled Suicide
A woman who had been missing for over three decades was recently found dead inside of her submerged vehicle, according to authorities.
The White Plains Police Department confirmed in a press release this week that Brenda Kerber's remains were found inside a car in the Muscoot Reservoir on Jan. 19.
Authorities believe Kerber's cause of death was suicide by drowning, noting their determination was based on "a review of the evidence in the case and the recent findings from the vehicle, along with the Medical Examiner's exam."
Kerber was last seen on Sept. 28, 1989 but wasn't reported missing by her landlord until Oct. 8, 1989, according to the press release.
Police said they searched for over a year before "all leads and information were exhausted."
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Recently, the missing person's case was reopened after police said a vehicle, matching the description of one relevant to the case, was discovered submerged in the upstate New York reservoir.
After removing the car from the water, state and local officials found the human remains inside and proceeded to have a forensic exam completed.
The medical examiner was able to determine Kerber's identity by matching dental records from her case file to that of the skeleton remains, according to the press release.
Her parents have since died, but her remaining family was notified of the findings, which police said they hope "brings the family some closure" after 31 years.
According to The Journal News, Kerber was 40 years old when she disappeared in 1989.
At the time, police struggled to figure out what happened to the White Plains mom, especially after finding two diaries inside her Rosedale apartment detailing her obsession with a man named Frederick Lenz, the outlet reported.
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An initial investigation by police later determined that Kerber was likely connected to a religious group led by Lenz after conducting interviews with family, friends, employers and reading her journal entries, authorities noted.
Lenz led a group of computer programmers and reportedly attracted them through his own brand of "American" Buddhism, which was a combination of Zen Buddhism, meditation and yoga, according to The Journal News.
A number of people, including former group members, psychologists and therapists, considered the group to be a cult, the outlet reported.
Kerber's father told The Journal News in 1989 that his daughter was suffering from depression following her divorce and that she sought emotional support through a religious group in the San Francisco Bay area.
It was during that time that Kerber met followers of Lenz, and later moved to the New York City area, where the leader — who allegedly charged a $1,000 monthly fee to attend his lectures — was based, the outlet reported.
However, after further investigation, police announced this week that "there has been no evidence directly linking the religious group to the demise of Kerber."
"It is not certain that Kerber was still associated with the group headed by Lenz, at the time of her death," White Plains Police wrote in the press release. "Other than the skeletal remains in the recovered vehicle, there was nothing else of evidentiary value located in or around the vehicle."
According to The Journal News, Lenz died in April 1998 "after consuming a large amount of barbiturates and either falling or jumping off the dock of his home on the Long Island Sound."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.