NewsPolk County


Missing Lakeland woman's body found after YouTube group finds car in a retention pond 10 months later

Margaret "Jan" Smith was reported missing in April 2021
Posted at 5:36 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 15:49:08-05

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A missing Lakeland woman's body was found after a YouTube group located her car in a retention pond on Wednesday morning, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said they responded, shortly after 10:30 a.m., to a report of a submerged vehicle at a retention pond near Victoria Road in unincorporated Lakeland.

After arriving on the scene, the PCSO Underwater Search and Recovery Team (USART) found and removed a brown 2012 KIA Soul from the retention pond.

USART, per a press release from the sheriff's office, then found a body inside of the Kia Soul.

At the time of their initial press release, deputies had not identified the victim but did state that the Kia Soul was connected to a 2021 missing person's case.

On Thursday afternoon, the sheriff's office said the victim was Margaret "Jan" Smith, a 59-year-old woman who had been reported missing on April 2, 2021.

According to deputies, the YouTube group, which specializes in searching for vehicles in bodies of water, found the Kia Soul after Smith's family contacted them for help.

"The group attempted searches at several bodies of water in the area of Ms. Smith's south Lakeland home, but were unsuccessful. A PCSO deputy informed the group that Ms. Smith had been involved in a minor crash at Socrum Loop Road North and Old Polk City Road in Lakeland the night she went missing. The crash investigator told detectives that she had driven west from the crash scene, although she eventually got turned around because the Kia was discovered in a retention pond north of the crash scene," the sheriff's office said in a press release. "With the information about the crash, the group made one last attempt at one of several retention ponds around the Hunters Crossing subdivision and located it completely submerged near the middle of the pond where the water was seven feet deep."

"This was a tragic accident, and our prayers are with the family. We're grateful for "Adventures with Purpose" working with us in locating the vehicle," said Sheriff Grady Judd.