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Missing Port Lavaca man, car found in Guadalupe River

By BY CATY HIRST - CHIRST@VICAD,COM
July 13, 2012 at 2:13 a.m.
Updated July 14, 2012 at 2:14 a.m.


PORT LAVACA - The body of David Willoughby, 52, who disappeared June 26 while en route to Rockport, was pulled from the Guadalupe River near Tivoli on Friday evening, police said.

The Port Lavaca man was inside his white Honda Civic, which was also pulled from the river, about 17 miles from Port Lavaca.

A Department of Public Safety dive team from Austin found the car while searching the river off state Highway 35, said Port Lavaca Police Lt. Brandon Riedel.

About 3 p.m., the sonar they were using hit on an object in the river. They determined it was a car.

Around 7:30 p.m., Allan's Wrecker Service's from Victoria pulled the car from the muddy river. A body was discovered inside.

He was positively identified about 8 p.m., Riedel said.

Divers were drawn to the area after checking Willoughby's cell phone records. The last activity showed a ping from a tower about five miles away from the river, he said.

Willoughby was last seen June 26 when he left Port Lavaca en route to Rockport to pickup a friend, his wife, Charlene Willoughby, said on July 2. The two men planned to visit another friend, who was dying of cancer.

He never reached his destination, and the last anyone heard from him was a cell phone conversation just after 9 p.m. with his Rockport buddy.

With assistance from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the United States Coast Guard, agencies searched canals and bayous with sonar and searched the area by air, but found nothing indicating a vehicle ran off the road or was hidden in brush.

Riedel said they do not know what caused the car to go into the river or how long he was in the water

An autopsy was ordered and will be performed by the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office in Austin.

Longtime friend Johnnie Graham described Willoughby as a hard-working man who cared for his family. With his job in off-shore gas production, he worked two weeks, then had two weeks at home.

In addition to his wife, Willoughby has two children, Colton Willoughby, 18, and Madison Willoughby, 13.

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