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Man who found Toni Anderson's car explains how it could have been missed

Posted: 6:22 PM, Mar 11, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-12 12:19:55-04
How Toni Anderson's car was found

Toni Anderson’s car was pulled out of the Missouri River near Parkville Friday evening, nearly eight weeks after the 20-year-old disappeared. Many are wondering why it took so long to find the Kansas City woman’s car, especially after KCPD confirmed they had already searched the area.

Dennis Watters and his wife Tammy are the husband-wife team who discovered Anderson’s car. They run a non-profit which searches for the missing and reached out to Brian Anderson, Toni’s father, when they noticed the case was going cold. 

Knowing Anderson’s phone was last pinged near the Parkville area before she vanished, they began searching retention ponds in the area Wednesday afternoon. But it was their first sweep of the Missouri River near Platte Landing Park between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. when they came across what would eventually be identified as Anderson’s 2014 black Ford Focus.

"Even when we found it was still very hard to see,” said Dennis Watters.

Watters told 41 Action News he isn’t surprised that previous agencies weren’t able to locate Anderson’s vehicle. He said considering many factors, including the murkiness of the water, the car would have been easy to miss.

"I'm gonna say about half to two-thirds of the car was already under sand,” said Watters. "We could see that the sand was already up over the front bumper and encroaching on the hood."

The co-owner of Team Watters Sonar said a variety of factors led to the discovery of Anderson’s car.

  • Watters believes he has advanced sonar equipment that other agencies used by police may not have had.
  • Using sonar to find cars since 2005, he believes he has a trained eye to spot such cars that may be under water. Watters says many times a submerged car will only develop a ‘flash’ when picked up by sonar. Since it won’t look like a car on the image, you have to know what to look for.
  • Watters says cars that have recently been submerged are much harder for sonar to discover. The fact Anderson’s car likely sat underwater for several weeks collecting dirt and sand helped Watters pick up a slightly better image.

"When it's brand new and it's all slick and smooth, the sound will hit that car and instead of returning and showing me a perfect car, it will often just give me a weird looking flash,” said Watters.

KCPD told 41 Action News they should be able to confirm the identity of the female body found in Anderson’s car early this upcoming week. They also say they still don’t suspect foul play and that the black SUV also found in the Missouri River next to Anderson’s car has no ties to any investigation they are working on.

Team Watters Sonar is a non-profit which runs solely on donations. You can read more about their search and recovery  here .

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Josh Helmuth can be reached at  josh.helmuth@kshb.com

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