A Parkville, Mo. park again became the center of a search for a missing woman, resulting in a grisly discovery Friday, March 10.
According to authorities, workers pulled the car of 20-year-old Toni Anderson from the banks of the Missouri River near a boat ramp at Platte Landing Park. A body was located inside the vehicle, and although Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department officials didn't positively identify the body until the morning of Wednesday, March 15, Anderson’s family had told multiple media outlets that the person inside was the woman missing since mid-January.
At this time, authorities don’t suspect foul play, and multiple reports indicate a wayward Anderson might have accidentally driven onto the park’s boat ramp before the car slid into the icy waters, leaving her trapped.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that police have located the car of Toni Anderson,” Parkville mayor Nan Johnston said in a statement. “I have spoken to the family and expressed our prayers and condolences as they continue to deal with this horrible tragedy.
“I join the community of Parkville today in expressing our prayers and support to the family of Toni Anderson.”
Parkville became the center of family searches in recent weeks after reports indicated her cell phone last pinged in the area.
According to authorities, Anderson was last seen in the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 15 after leaving her job at Chrome, an adult entertainment club. A North Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department officer pulled her over after 4 a.m. for an illegal lane change.
The officer let her off with a warning, and after she told the officer she was almost out of gas, the officer pointed her in the direction of a QuikTrip store nearby off of Highway 9. Security camera footage allegedly shows her alone at the QuikTrip, located about 7 miles east of Platte Landing Park.
According to reports, a friend received a text from Anderson at about 4:42 a.m. saying, “Omg I just got pulled over again.” It was unclear if that text was sent in reference to the North Kansas City officer’s stop or if she had been pulled over again after that. Officers have no record of any other officer pulling Anderson over that night.
Authorities still have not speculated on how Anderson’s car ended up traveling first north then west on Highway 9 to reach Platte Landing Park. A nonprofit sonar company assisted the family by scanning the river bottom in the area.
After two months of searching, the car was located on Wednesday, March 8, but time was needed to stage the recovery.
On Friday, March 10, authorities closed the park, and news helicopters recorded footage as first a black Lincoln Navigator SUV — later said to not be a part of any known investigation — and then Anderson’s black 2012 Ford Focus sedan were pulled from the river. According to CBS affiliate KCTV 5 in Kansas City, the car was three-quarters of the way filled with silt and if another week had passed, the car and Anderson’s body may never have been found.
The family reported that body inside, sent to the Jackson County (Mo.) Medical Examiner’s office, was wearing the same clothes as Anderson on the night she disappeared. Reported to be a strong swimmer, authorities indicate the cold water and current would have made escaping the vehicle difficult.
According to reports, the driver’s side window was rolled down, Anderson’s seatbelt was off and her belongings were still in the car. The family is still waiting on an autopsy to be completed, but reports indicate Anderson was uninjured except for a bruise to her leg, which may have been from her GPS device falling onto her.