Missing Lincoln Co. woman found dead in car under 20 ft. of water

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News 12 First at Five/Tuesday April 22, 2014

LINCOLN CO., Ga. (WRDW)--It started more than a week ago on April 14th when the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office received a call from the family of 72-year-old Shirley Lavender who'd been missing for less than 24 hours.

"You see on TV on all the crime shows, they'll tell you they've got to be missing 24 or 48 hours. Generally if we get a call we go ahead and initiate some response," said Sheriff Bruce Beggs with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. "Initially the family believed that she had gone on a trip maybe to the mountains."

By April 20th, it became clear she never made it to the mountains and Beggs says his team went into overdrive.

It all came to a head Monday with the help of emergency services and a dive team.

"Sometime [Monday] we received some information that caused us to search in the Fishing Creek Boat Ramp area of Lincoln County, which is actually near the subdivision where [Lavender] lived," said Beggs.

The dive team found Lavender inside her car late Monday night near the Fishing Creek Boat Ramp. Beggs tells me she was found under 20 feet of water, "right off the boat ramp."

Right now, investigators say they don't know how she got into the water, when she died or how she died.

"At this time we don't have any information that indicates that there's any foul play involved, but we are still continuing to investigate," said Beggs.

All in an effort to try to find out how this happened to a well loved mother, grandmother and member of the community.

"This was not the outcome we were hoping for. We were hoping to find her okay," said Beggs. "She's a very nice lady who's lived in our community for a long time. [She was] well liked. And we're just saddened by the events that brought us to this."

And as Beggs said, there are still a lot of questions right now including how did she end up 20 feet under water? And, how long was she there?

Her body is now being sent to the crime lab where an autopsy will be done, which Beggs says should help answer some of those questions.

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