Twenty-three years after an Arkansas mother and her 22-month-old daughter went missing, a non-profit search group helped bring closure to their family.
Human remains that officials believe are of Samantha Jean Hopper and her daughter, Courtney Holt, were found inside a car pulled out of Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas on Tuesday, according to the Pope County Sheriff’s Office. A search team from the group Adventures with Purpose made the discovery.
The remains will be sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for DNA testing, authorities said.
The mother was traveling to drop off her daughter before going to a concert on Sept. 11, 1998, when they went missing, the sheriff’s office said. Her vehicle was never located until Tuesday, when Adventures with Purpose searchers used sonar to find Hopper’s blue Ford Tempo in about eight feet of water 25 yards from the bank, according to the sheriff.
A diving team that assisted Adventures with Purpose said authorities were notified and a towing company removed the car from the lake. Inside the car were human remains, which the sheriff’s office believes are of Hopper and her daughter.
“The Pope County Sheriff’s Office would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Samantha Hopper and Courtney Holt, and we are thankful to have been a small part of helping bring this 23-year-old case to closure,” Sheriff Shane Jones said in a statement.
Hopper was 19 years old and 8 months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, according to The Charley Project.
Family of the mom and daughter were at the scene, the divers said. They described it as “gut wrenching” to see the family’s tears, which came after “23 years and 9 hours of agonizing torture.”
But, the divers said, ”it was also incredibly heartwarming to see the smiles on the faces and the weight release from the shoulders knowing they were potentially bringing their loved ones home.”
Adventures with Purpose said it was an “honor” to bring Hopper home and were “humbled by the opportunity.”
The non-profit’s website says they have helped solve 16 missing person cold cases since 2019.