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Mystery Solved? Human Remains Found in Vehicle Submerged for 39 Years, Alabama Police say

Taniesa L. Sullivan | The Weekly Ledger News

GADSDEN — With the help of FBI dive teams, police in Alabama believe a 39-year-old missing person case has been resolved.

Gadsden Police Chief Lamar Jaggears said authorities hope to get DNA from the sibling of a man reported missing in Rainbow City on April 16, 1983, will confirm the identity of human remains found in an SUV submerged in the Coosa River behind an apartment complex.

Even without the DNA identification, they have a lot to prove the identity: the brown 1983 Ford Bronco matches the description of Alan D. Livingston's vehicle, and a driver's license, Goodyear ID, and Social Security card found in the vehicle bears his name.

In January, Chris Overstreet, a scuba diver, and EMT from Virginia, who travels around looking into missing person cases, was conducting a water search on the Coosa River using sonar when he discovered a vehicle in about 18 feet of water, 30 feet from the shoreline behind an apartment complex.

Overstreet dove and found the vehicle, a 1980s model, resting on the hood in silt. He called the Gadsden police.

PHOTO: The orange buoy marks the approximate spot where a vehicle was found in the Coosa River. A Virginia man who travels and conducts searches related to missing person cases using sonar found the vehicle.

The Gadsden Police Department and the Etowah County Dive Team launched an investigation. Capt. Bobby Jackson said they determined they had no means to raise the vehicle, filled with silt up the windshield, from the water. "It would have come apart in their hands," he said, after decades underwater.

After research, it was discovered that Livingston, 25 at the time, went missing in April 1983. He was last seen at what used to be Forest River Apartments (now Summer Waters).

Livingston owned a 1980 brown Ford Bronco at that time. He was reported missing by a co-worker who had not seen him for several days.

About two months after Livingston was reported missing, William Roth Jr. was arrested in Arkansas for a murder that occurred in Clarksville, Texas. During an interview with Texas/Arkansas authorities, Roth admitted to hitting Livingston in the head with a board after an argument. He said the crime occurred in Gadsden, where he was staying at the time.

Livingston lived in Rainbow City at the time and was reported missing to their jurisdiction. After Roth's statement to authorities, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation Gadsden, Rainbow City investigators went to Texas to interview Roth.

Roth consistently told investigators that he hit Livingston with a board in Gadsden. He was inconsistent, however, about what he did with the body and Livingston's Bronco afterward.

Authorities searched in several different locations but came up short at that time.

Because of the condition of the vehicle, which had disintegrated to the point, it might fall apart, and the fact it was encased in mud and silt up to the windshield, Gadsden detectives and Gadsden Police Certified Public Safety Diver Lieutenant Jon Alred consulted with Police Chief Lamar Jaggears, who asked for the FBI’s assistance.

FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Will Strunk coordinated with FBI Headquarters in Virginia, who sent divers from Virginia, Los Angeles, and Miami to conduct the search.

The FBI Dive Team on Tuesday and Wednesday used a dredge to remove silt and other objects from inside the Bronco that was still submerged in the Coosa River. The silt was sifted and what was left was analyzed by the FBI Evidence Response Team.

At the conclusion of the search, skeletal remains and the identification belonging to Livingston was located. The remains were sent off to forensics for further analysis.

Roth, 61, is serving a life sentence in Texas and is currently in the care of a nursing facility because of deteriorating health.

(Gadsden Times)

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