COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A shocking discovery was made late Tuesday night after the DeKalb Sheriff’s Department opened an investigation into a man who was reported missing and later found dead near a boating ramp.
According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, a 2013 Chevy Malibu was recovered from the water at the Cookeville Boat Ramp in Dekalb County on Tuesday, April 19. The vehicle belonged to 37-year-old William Houghtaling Jr. of Baxter, whose body was found in the water at the Johnson Chapel Boat Ramp on April 6.
“I don’t want to remember my brother in the water, that’s not how I want to remember my brother,” said Jolene Houghtaling, William’s sister.
In a statement released last week, Sheriff Patrick Ray said, “Houghtaling was reported missing out of Cookeville City by the Cookeville Police Department in March 2022. The evening when the body was found (April 6), I contacted the District Attorney General’s Office and requested the assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation due to a possible multi-county case.”
The body was found floating face down in the lake on April 6, at the Johnson Chapel Recreation Area only a few feet from the boat ramp in about three to four feet of water.
According to Sheriff Ray, the body was nude except for the pair of socks he was wearing, and identification was found tucked in one of the socks.
The discovery was made by a fisherman.
“Why? Why was he naked? That’s not William. William wouldn’t be naked. Why did he not have clothes on? Why was he at that boat dock? It was just a lot of questions,” explained Jolene.
“A man come to the area to check the lake to see if it [the lake level] was up because he was going to go fishing when he noticed something near the boat ramp. At first, he thought it was an animal, but as he got a closer look, he found it to be a human body,” said Sheriff Ray. “Because of the poor phone service in that area, the man went to the top of the hill to call 911 which did a transfer to White County, and then the White County 911 Center transferred it to DeKalb County.”
Wanting answers, Jolene reached out to YouTubers, “Exploring with Nug,” in hopes they may be able to lend a hand. The crew has successfully helped in cases across Middle Tennessee, using their dive team.
On Tuesday, with their help, William’s car was recovered from Center Hill Lake.
“The most emotional part was when I saw the license. I knew it was the car so it didn’t matter anymore. I had the license plate,” explained Jolene.
The case is being investigated by the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennesse Bureau of Investigation.