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SAWMILLS, N.C. — A rusty, mud-caked sedan pulled from the bottom of a lake in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains could bring closure to the family of a retired airman who disappeared 43 years ago.

Investigators believe human remains found in a 1968 Pontiac Catalina recovered Tuesday from Lake Rhodhiss belong to Amos Shook, who was reported missing on Feb. 19, 1972. The model matches the car that belonged to Shook, and investigators found his identification and wallet in the car.

‘‘We found a wallet and some ID cards in it. It amazed us how preserved that stuff was,’’ Sheriff Alan Jones said.


The four-door sedan showed some rust, but the windows were intact after it was pulled from the lake about 75 miles northwest of Charlotte. There were no signs of foul play.

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Aaron Barlowe said the remains are being sent for an autopsy. Medical examiners will try to use dental records for identification, but may need to use DNA testing that could take weeks.

‘‘Circumstantially, everything points to it being Mr. Shook, but we can’t conclusively say that yet,’’ he said Thursday.

Authorities say the search for Shook resumed after his daughter asked last month that they take another look. But few records from the investigation were left when investigators searched their files, Jones said.

‘‘Records from that far back, there’s not a lot that was left because I know we looked for it.’’

Barlowe said investigators have been going back over old leads but wouldn’t say what brought them to the lake. A dive team used sonar to find the car in 30 feet of water.

Shook, who was 44 when he disappeared, had retired from the Air Force, and lived in Sawmills, just north of the lake. The mostly rural area was home to the first modern furniture factories starting in the late 19th century, according to a county website.


Shook’s surviving family members live in Tennessee, and some are coming Friday to discuss the case, Barlowe said.

Given the time that’s passed, authorities may not be able to say what happened. But the sheriff hopes the discovery gives his family peace of mind.

‘‘They’re just happy to get closure,’’ he said.