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Finding abandoned cars immediately conjures feelings that something bad has happened. There is something indelibly linked between us and our cars. I’m not talking about the car dork pouring their life into a vintage Porsche 911; it’s something a little more intimate than that. Unlike our homes, our cars are a personal and private extension of us that we put into the world. So when cars turn up abandoned, it immediately feels wrong. This is why the recent discovery of a mass grave of 32 abandoned cars discovered in Florida immediately grabbed the attention of the authorities. It doesn’t take a detective to see that something (or many somethings) has gone wrong here. 

32 cars were discovered at the bottom of a Florida lake

Again, it doesn’t take much convincing to accept that a lake with 32 abandoned cars sunk to the lake bed shouts “foul play.” Despite this common sense connecting of the dots, once volunteer divers discovered the submerged automotive boneyard, the police, and detectives were immediately dispatched to sift through the clues. 

The lake grave is in Doral, FL, which is in Miami-Dade County. It is worth mentioning that South Florida has a reputation for various organized crime and illegal imports. As such, the police and detectives set to exhuming the cars right away. The cars in the lake are linked to many different unsolved crimes spanning the last several decades. The unfortunate reality is that many crimes go unsolved. After a case goes cold, there often can’t be any more detective work done until more evidence turns up. It is not uncommon for regular folks to kick up some new evidence accidentally, which breaks open an old cold case. 

What did the divers find at the bottom of the lake? 

Car pulled from Florida lake
Car pulled from Florida lake | Miami Dade County Police Department

Ken Flemming, one of the volunteer divers, gave  WSVN 7 the skinny on the original goals of diving there in the first place. “We’re here trying to solve missing persons cold cases,” said Fleming. “When we discover a spot like this with multiple vehicles, it pretty much indicates that a crime where they’re disposing the vehicles and hiding them from law enforcement.” 

Police detective Alvaro Zabaleta told local news outlet NBC-2 News, “We received information from a citizen on Sunday that apparently he was diving out here; he appeared to observe what appeared to be several dozen vehicles that had been dumped in this lake. Once we received this information, our divers unit immediately collaborated with other agencies at the police department and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue so we could put this operation together in order to be able to recover all of the vehicles. 

The first car pulled up was a stolen 2002 Nissan Altima. Zabaleta says, “These are most likely the type of vehicles that we are going to find here dumped in this lake. Vehicles that were abandoned, and they wanted to get rid of them. Or those that were taken for a joy ride, they were stolen and were dumped inside the lake.” 

Are any of these cars linked to murder? 

Dade County Police towing cars from a lake
Cars pulled from the lake | Miami Dade Police Department

Despite the expectation that many, if not most, cars found here are most likely stolen cars that the thieves wanted to dump, homicide detectives are standing by to get in the game. The fact that most of the cars found in the lake are pre-2000 could mean that nearly 25-year-old cases could be solved thanks to the discovery. Murder and theft aren’t the only reason someone might want to dump a car. Experts expect some of these sunken cars to be evidence of insurance fraud

None of the cars have been linked to violent crimes yet. However, the investigation is still ongoing. We will update this story when/if more evidence is found. 

Why are cars such a critical piece of evidence? 

The most interesting thing about this story is that we know instantly that if cars are found at the bottom of a lake, something has gone awry. Even more to the point, most people probably assume a crime has taken place. Why is this? If the lake were filled with socks, blenders, hats, refrigerators, or any other item we use daily, we probably wouldn’t think much of it. However, when we find abandoned cars, our hearts tell us something is wrong. 

If you’ve ever spent time in the country, you know that an abandoned car doesn’t always mean something bad has happened. Still, we have a knee-jerk reaction when seeing a car pulled up from deep in the woods, far off in the desert, or from the bottom of a lake. 

Cars are special. We interact with them in a way that is fairly unique. Think about it, if someone bumps into you at the store, assuming you are decent and well-adjusted, you aren’t likely to react much. However, if someone lightly bumps your car, or you even think they might, many of us raise hell. 

Our cars represent something a little deeper than most other objects we own. It’s almost like an extension of our home. This is something indelibly woven into who we are. Since the days of cave-dwelling, just any old someone couldn’t mess with your cave. Fast forward a few hundred thousand years, and we still treat our homes this way. Strangely, I feel like this protective nature extends to our cars. 

These are sacred places for many people where we feel safe (whether or not we actually are). This is why I think when we see an abandoned car, our first thought is often that something went wrong. People don’t typically leave their cars. Even in the event of a breakdown or getting stuck, we will go to extreme lengths to rescue our cars, even if the cost outweighs the value of the vehicle.

Finding abandoned cars can lead to solving crimes

The YouTube Channel, Adventures with Purpose is a great example of how linked we are to our vehicles. The premise is essentially that if these guys can find abandoned cars in remote areas, they could be the piece missing for an unsolved crime, disappearance, or other types of mysteries. While their successes are often tainted by the harrowing and heartbreaking discovery of someone who has lost their life, this idea that cars and people are linked is actually helping solve cold cases. Now, we understand that this isn’t a 1:1. However, it is uncanny how often a cold case can be solved by simply finding the person’s car.