Delve into the intriguing cold case of Everett Hawley and Clarence Owens, missing since 1976, with their car finally found in the Pecatonica River. Discover the mysterious events of their trip and the recent developments reigniting the investigation.

In February of 1976, two Illinois men went missing. Now 48 years later the car they were driving was just pulled from the Pecatonica River near where they were last seen.

[UPDATE 3/14]

There is a major update to this case from Winnebago County Coroner, Jennifer Muraski.

[scroll down for update]

Car Found in Pecatonica River Linked to 48-Year-Old Cold Case
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As far as we (the public) know, this case has been cold for quite a long time, until some fisherman found something in the water.

This is not an ordinary fishing story.

1976 Pecatonica Illinois Missing Persons Cold Case

Everett Hawley (l), Clarence Owens (r). Credit Freeport Jouirnal-Standard
Everett Hawley (l), Clarence Owens (r). Credit Freeport Journal-Standard

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You may not have even been born when this missing persons case began. I didn't live in the area at that time, so I've been reading up about the mystery that may finally unfold in front of our eyes.

On Thursday, February 19th, 1976 two men from the Freeport area set out on a bit of a business and pleasure trip to Pecatonica, Illinois.

Everett Hawley (72) was a real estate broker and appraiser and Clarence Owens (65) was Everett's salesman.

The two men spent part of the day at the American Legion in Pecatonica at a rally for former Illinois governor, Jim Thompson, who was just a candidate at the time.

After the rally, they walked across the street to Rocky's Cafe.

After the cafe stop, the two drove to Clarence's son and daughter-in-law's house and showed off the paint job on the Chevy Impala he was driving. He'd just gotten it painted a metallic gold and wanted to show it off.

The next stop on their schedule was a farm auction nearby. That auction was the last place they were seen. It was between 2:40 - 3:00 p.m..

Their next stop was to be in German Valley but they never made that appointment, according to


From the Freeport Journal-Standard on February 28th, 1976

Article from Feb 28, 1976 Freeport Journal-Standard (Freeport, Illinois)

Freeport Journal-Standard
Freeport Journal-Standard

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This morning, we talked to Winnebago County Sheriff, Gary Caruana, who credited a tip his department got from a sonar-using fisherman for this discovery.

The fisherman was certain it was a vehicle his sonar picked up underwater and how could he not be sure with how clear this sona image is 8-10 feet down in that silty river water?

Spencer Fry
Spencer Fry

Sheriff Caruana confirmed that the car pulled from the Pecatonica River WAS Clarence Owens's newly-painted 1966 Chevy Impala.

Below is a map of approximately where the 1966 Chevy Impala was pulled from the river.


Since the investigation is ongoing, Sheriff Caruana did not confirm if any human remains were found inside.

There is reason to suspect foul play in this case but nothing has ever been confirmed.

Could the motive behind their disappearance be money?

The Freeport Journal-Standard article mentions that the two men had left their checkbooks in their respective offices and this Facebook post mentions that these men liked going to auctions and likely had plenty of cash on hand. How much cash?

[UPDATE 3/14]

The Winnebago County Coroner, Jennifer Muraski has confirmed that the skeletal remains of two individuals were found in the Chevy Impala pulled from the Pecatonica River on Monday (3/11)

Over 100 human bones were recovered and Sheriff Caruana says they are returning to the river to search for more.


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