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Cornelius man was missing for nearly a year before divers found his vehicle at Rogers Landing

Officials have positively identified remains found in a car submerged in the Willamette River in Newberg as that of a Cornelius man missing for nearly a year.

Investigators found the human remains inside a Nissan Sentry divers located at Rogers Landing on May 13. The car was immediately identified as belonging to Ralph Brown, who had left his home on May 16, 2021, never to be seen again. His disappearance led to a region-wide search that continued until the discovery last week in Newberg.Brown

A deputy medical examiner was at the scene when the remains were removed from the car but could not immediately identify the identity of the driver. On the evening of May 17, the medical examiner announced that the remains had been identified as Brown, adding that there were no signs of foul play in his death.

Family members said that Brown, 76, drove away from his home after telling his wife he was "going home." He did not return and at the time of his disappearance family members said he had recently been suffering from memory loss. One of the Browns' adult children, Laurie Sanders, reached her father by phone that evening. But he sounded confused and was unable to describe where he was.

Despite a manhunt and attempts to track Brown's cellphone, his whereabouts remained a mystery. There were several unconfirmed sightings in Newberg, Silver Falls State Park and other locations across the region, but none were ever conclusively linked to Brown, and while Brown's family, friends, community volunteers and first responders followed up on every lead, they were unable to locate him

Brown was a former Cornelius mayor; Forest Grove School District board member; longtime Hillsboro School District teacher, counselor and administrator and past president of the Oregon Road Runner's Club.

Grim discovery

The Nissan was found in approximately 40 feet of water at Rogers Landing on May 13 by the Portland missing persons search firm Adventures with Purpose, which bills itself on its website as a search and rescue dive team.

Yamhill County sheriff's patrol deputies, detectives from the office's special investigations unit and its marine patrol responded to the boat ramp after "the company notified them that they believed they had located the vehicle."

Detectives from the Washington County Sheriff's Office's violent crimes assisted with the investigation as well.


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