FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The bodies of a woman and her two daughters missing for 11 years were found in the bottom of a canal still strapped in their seat belts.
Authorities have tentatively identified the bodies found in a minivan recovered from an Alligator Alley canal as a Nelta Jacques and her two daughters.
The Broward Sheriff's Office reports that homicide detectives, the county's medical examiner and a Florida Gulf Coast University anthropologist met Thursday morning. They agreed the bodies were likely 27-year-old Nelta Jacques and her daughters, ages 7 and 5, who disappeared in 1999 as they drove from Fort Lauderdale to their Tampa home. Officials will still have to wait several weeks for DNA confirmation.
For nearly 11 years, the husband of Nelta Jacques has held out for word of the fate of his wife and their kids.
Nelta was 27 when she was last seen June 2, 1999. She had worked at a Wal-Mart and at toll plazas in Florida, along with other odd jobs, her brother Chevalier said.
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"She was about eight months pregnant," Dinorah Perry told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in a story published Thursday. Perry runs Missing Children International Ministries in Pembroke Pines, Florida, and campaigned for greater police efforts in the search for Jacques. "Her father begged her not to drive that car alone. She said, 'Daddy, I'm grown.' "
Jean Jacques, Nelta’s husband said "This is a very bad thing to know now ten years after and you expect to see that person. You expect to know they're alive and they're here. And you hear something happened."
At last, Jean Jacques knows what happened to his family. Even though he had separated from his wife before the incident, he’s relieved. He believed she'd run away with the kids.
"Yes,” he said in broken English from his Tampa home. “I believe they're missing or my wife hide somewhere or they don't want me to know where's my daughter is so I can't take her. Even, I say I would be happy even if she give me child support. I would know she, I would know my daughter is there so I can see her one day…until this morning."
The Broward Sheriff's Office said its divers regularly conduct training sessions to recover vehicles in canals. "Usually, cars that are stolen, abandoned or dumped for insurance fraud are found," the police news release said. "About 1 in 100 vehicles yield human remains."
The investigation continues, but detectives believe it was an accident and do not suspect foul play.