What Happens When A Body Goes In The Water?
Laci Peterson's body washed on shore four months after her disappearance
Normally, when a body goes into the water, it is returned to a beach or is recovered along the coast line within several days. We've seen it time and again in California. Missing persons cases become murder investigations because a body that was supposed to disappear...didn't.
In the most famous case, Laci Peterson's body washed ashore four months after she disappeared, leading to the murder conviction of her husband, Scott. The body of Evelyn Hernandez, another young woman missing from the San Francisco Bay area in 2003, surfaced in three months. But one missing woman's body hasn't turned up at all. Does that mean she never went into the water?
Did Nancy End Up In The Water?
Nancy MacDuckston has been missing since August 11, 2003. Could her body have gone in the Pacific?
Nancy MacDuckston, a California teacher, disappeared from Davenport, California, about 90 miles from her home on August 11, 2003. She hasn't been seen or heard from since. As soon as Nancy disappeared, the Coast Guard went on an aggressive search. The immediate area where she was last seen was searched with scuba divers and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association Administration (NOAA) was contacted to map out different scenarios for what may have happened to Nancy if she in fact had gone into the water.
NOAA officials studied satellite images
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NOAA checked the closest offshore buoy, station number 46013. Every buoy sends information about wind and water conditions to a sattelite, which then transfers the information to the agency's computer. NOAA factored in that a typical body will sink for a few days. There are no strong currents on the bottom, so the body will not move much until it starts to decay. When that happens, gases in the body build up. Those gases make the dead body float. That's why bodies tend to show up after a while. The main question addressed in the NOAA report: if Nancy had gone into the water, where would her body surface?
NOAA says, for most of the time after Nancy's disappearance, the winds would have moved her body south. But if you follow the winds in the days between August 20 and August 23 - that's nine to 13 days after her disappearance - "coastally trapped wind reversal" would have carried her body west from the point she was last seen. On the U.S. West Coast during coastally trapped wind reversals, the wind reverses from its normal direction to west and then north.
All of the areas highlighted by NOAA were searched, to no avail. It's also possible that she was carried out far to sea or caught in a kelp forest at the sea floor. But did her body go into the water?