WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A vehicle belonging to Marilane Carter, the pastor’s wife who went missing earlier this month as she traveled from Kansas to visit family in Alabama, has been found in Arkansas with a deceased woman in the driver’s seat.
“With a heavy heart we share this update with everyone,” the Find Marilane Facebook page announced Tuesday evening. “Today Marilane’s vehicle was found in West Memphis, AR, in Crittenden County. A female was found deceased in the vehicle. Law enforcement says that foul play is not suspected.”
According to Fox4, Carter’s family traveled to the area this past weekend to help with the search, and all returned home except her uncle.
On Tuesday, he went driving and walking through the general area where Carter’s phone was last pinged and came upon a field with three large Conex shipping containers. One of the doors was partially open, so he looked inside and found a car matching the description of Marilane’s vehicle. A deceased female sat in the driver’s seat.
He called the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department, which came to the scene, along with state police and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office Chief Todd Grooms told reporters that the area had been searched before and that family members remember seeing the shipping containers in the tall grass but never thought to look inside.
“We were looking for a vehicle and just never would have dreamed that her vehicle would have been inside of those,” he said.
Grooms, who outlined that the family is now grieving the loss, said that he was “hoping for a more positive outcome” such as that “maybe [she] had been somewhere getting some mental health treatment.”
As previously reported, Carter, 36, the wife of Leawood Baptist Church pastor Adam Carter, left her home on Aug. 1 to be present for the birth of her sister’s baby. She had purchased a plane ticket for the journey but decided last minute to travel by car instead.
Brother-in-law Brady McLaughlin told AL.com that Carter, who quietly struggled with mental health issues, planned on obtaining help in Birmingham while visiting. Her husband said that she preferred to use facilities in Alabama rather than Kansas. Carter once served as a chaplain at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.
Carter kept in touch with her husband and mother while traveling, but they became concerned when she made comments that she was getting lost and was “traveling on dirt roads.” The route would have entailed solely highway travel.
The pastor’s wife was speaking to her husband the evening of Aug. 2 when her phone cut out. She also called her mother, who said that Carter’s phone likewise cut out or the battery ran down while they were talking.
She was last seen on surveillance footage at a gas station in West Memphis, Arkansas, and her phone also pinged last near Interstate 55. Then, she seemed to disappear into nowhere.
Her husband contacted police as she never arrived in Birmingham, and traveled to the south to help with the search. Family had hoped to have her home by Monday — the couple’s three-year-old daughter’s birthday. The Carters had three children together.
“These have been the longest weeks of our lives as we tried to cling to the hope that Marilane was still alive,” the Find Marilane page wrote Tuesday evening. “Thank you to all who have offered words of encouragement, prayers, tips, help, and support during this very difficult time.”
“Marilane was dearly loved by family and friends. The all-out effort to find her is a testimony to that. The objective of this page was to mobilize an army of people to help us find Marilane. This was accomplished. We are extremely grieved by the outcome.”