Car linked to 1998 disappearance of pregnant Arkansas mom and her toddler is pulled from lake


Car belonging to pregnant mom, 20, who vanished in 1998 with her toddler daughter is pulled from Arkansas lake with human remains inside

  • The Pope County Sheriff’s office salvaged a car from an Arkansas lake belonging to Samantha Hopper, 20, who disappeared with her 22-month-old daughter
  • Hopper was nine months pregnant when she was dropping her daughter, Courtney Holt, off in order to attend a concert in Little Rock in 1998
  • Cold case hunters working with the family spotted the vehicle on Tuesday using sonar technology, and the car was pulled from lake with a crane 
  • Human remains were found inside and sent off for DNA testing  










A car belonging to a 20 year-old pregnant mother who vanished alongside her toddler daughter in 1998 had been pulled from a lake with human remains inside.   

The Pope County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas received a call on Tuesday from cold case hunters who claimed they found the car belonging to Samantha Hopper, 20, and her daughter, Courtney Holt, 1, at a lake in Russellville. 

It was dragged from the lake shortly afterwards, with the Ford Tempo matching the description of the car Hopper was last seen driving. Human remains have been found inside, but cops have yet to identify them, or offer a possible cause of death.  

Hopper and Courtney had been reported missing in September 1998 when Hopper, who was pregnant at the time, was reportedly traveling to drop off her daughter in her blue Ford with plans to attend a concert in Little Rock with a friend. 

The Pope County Sheriff's Office pulled a Ford Tempo an Arkansas lake. The car belonged to Samantha Hopper, 20, who went missing in 1998 with her 22-month-old daughter

The Pope County Sheriff’s Office pulled a Ford Tempo an Arkansas lake. The car belonged to Samantha Hopper, 20, who went missing in 1998 with her 22-month-old daughter 

Samantha Hopper

Courtney Holt

Samantha Hopper was nine-months pregnant when she went out on a drive with her youngest daughter, Courtney Holt. Hopper was trying to drop her daughter off in order to attend a concert in Little Rock when they both disappeared

Hopper disappeared with her toddler in 1998, leaving behind her oldest daughter, Dez Carpenter. Carpenter said she was grateful her family had finally been found after 23 years

Hopper disappeared with her toddler in 1998, leaving behind her oldest daughter, Dez Carpenter. Carpenter said she was grateful her family had finally been found after 23 years

Dez Carpenter, Hopper’s oldest daughter, said she was grateful to Pope County officials and the Adventures with Purpose group, a nonprofit organization that deals with cold cases, which delivered the tip on the car’s location. 

‘After being missing for over 23 years, with the assistance of AWP and Chaos dive teams we were able to find my mother…and my 22 month old sister.’ Carpenter wrote in a memorial fund set up for her family. 

‘This has been such a relief to have found her and we want to provide them with a proper burial.’ 

AWP arrived at the lake on Tuesday and worked with Chaos Divers to search for the car, which the group believed could be in the body of water after speaking with Hopper’s family about her habits and schedule. 

Using sonar technology, the group was able to locate a car, which appeared to match the license plate of Hopper’s Ford Tempo.

The Pope County Sherriff's Office contracted the help of Elmo's Crane Service to pull the car

The Pope County Sherriff’s Office contracted the help of Elmo’s Crane Service to pull the car

Pictured, Dez Carpenter, left, with her younger sister, Courtney Holt in a Christmas photo

Pictured, Dez Carpenter, left, with her younger sister, Courtney Holt in a Christmas photo

Samantha Hopper had disappeared in September 1998 with her toddler, Courtney Holt

Samantha Hopper had disappeared in September 1998 with her toddler, Courtney Holt

The Pope County Sherriff’s office arrived at the Russellville lake later that day and contracted the help of Elmo’s Crane Service and Battlecross Towing to pull the car out of the 8-foot deep lake. The car was about 25-yards from the river bank. 

Once the car was removed from the lake, police found the human remains inside and sent them off to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, in Little Rock, for DNA testing. 

The samples will be matched with DNA samples taken years earlier from Carpenter at the behest of Sherriff’s Office Detective Erick Riggs, who was assigned to the cold case in 2013. 

Riggs had believed a tragedy beheld Hopper and Holt on their drive all those years ago and wanted to test Carpenter’s DNA with a national database of unidentified bodies, ABC 7 reported.   

Pope County Sheriff Shane Jones said, ‘The Pope County Sheriff’s Office would like to send our sincere condolences to the family of Samantha Hopper and Courtney Holt. We are thankful to have been a small part of helping bring this 23-year-old case to closure.’ 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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