In the past 18 months, a group of volunteers has recovered 12 missing persons from the bottom of lakes across the country. On Tuesday, they start their most extensive operation yet in Fort Worth.
Adventures with Purpose, in coordination with the Fort Worth police department and at least four other dive teams, plans to recover up to 25 cars from multiple lakes in the Fort Worth area from Tuesday to Friday. The team’s goal, founder Jared Leisek said, is primarily to clean up the environment — polluted lake depths are often “out of sight and out of mind.” But their efforts often have another, unintended significance.
“We may or may not solve a cold case by accident,” Leisek.
Fort Worth is one stop along Adventures with Purpose’s 44-day road trip across 19 states. The expedition, which started in September, focuses on 27 cold cases involving 36 missing people. On Tuesday, the team will start its operation at 9 a.m. at Lake Como. Various dive teams will change locations multiple times a day.
The team does not have a specific case it is looking to solve in Fort Worth. Leisek’s wife, worried about safety concerns, asked it to move away from cases of suspected foul play. But that does not negate the chance that one of the cars pulled from the water could hold answers to one of Fort Worth’s nearly 1,000 cold cases.
Rusty Arnold knows the chance that one of those cars will reveal his sister’s remains is slim, but he cannot ignore the possibility.
Arnold’s sister, Rachel Trlica, was one of the three girls who disappeared in December 1974. The Missing Fort Worth Trio has become one of the community’s most unnerving mysteries. From 2018 to July 2020, Arnold worked with another dive team, which volunteered to help him pull multiple cars from the black depths of Lake Benbrook in search of answers. The dives resulted in two cars breaching the surface, but they held no answers for Arnold or the family members of Renee Wilson and Julie Ann Mosley.
Arnold plans to attend the dive operations this week.
“I do know that cars are coming out of lakes, and when cars come out of lakes, mysteries are solved,” Arnold said. “This is one of the biggest mysteries in Fort Worth. And it’s very emotional that I might find answers for my mother before she passes.”
Adventures with Purpose has worked in Fort Worth before. In February, the team pulled nine cars from Lake Como and Lake White in two days, Leisek said. The team chose Fort Worth for their biggest operation yet because of the “warm welcome” they received, and continue to receive, from the Fort Worth Police Department, Leisek said.
“The Fort Worth Police Department has been very great to work with, they helped coordinate this search for us,” Leisek said.
The police department said it will help the team investigate and gather information from any cars pulled out of the water. Fort Worth police also pointed out key locations that would be good searches in Fort Worth, police said. The Fort Worth fire department will also provide resources.
On Saturday, the team will have a public “show-n-tell” at Beard’s Towing — which is offering its services to the dive teams for free — from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm. It will display all the cars found during the operation.
Mission to help families
While the team started diving for environmental purposes in 2019, its purpose shifted in December 2019 when a family asked them to help find Nathan Ashby, 22, of Warrenton, Missouri. Ashby was last seen driving his 1994 Chevy Silverado in July 2019, and his cell phone location pinged near the river. The team pulled a truck from the river on Dec. 27. Ashby’s remains were inside.
“That’s really how our new mission to serve was started,” Leisek said. “From environmentalists to families that need help.”
In Marine City, Michigan, the team recovered the car and body of Nadine Moses in September. In Nebraska, they found John Zarkowski’s body in the Missouri River. On Oct. 15, the dive team pin-pointed the location of an SUV that belonged to an Ohio mother missing since 2002 along with her two children.
Most recently, on Oct. 15, the team found human remains inside a missing woman’s car in Lake Tawakoni in the Waco Bay area. Carey Mae Parker disappeared in 1991. The remains are believed to be Parker’s, but still need to be confirmed through DNA.
Adventures with Purpose relies entirely on donations. It is not paid for its work and, even if a family asks it to search for a specific person, the group does not charge anyone.
People can support Adventures with Purpose by making donations, buying merchandise and watching the group’s YouTube channel.