PUNTA GORDA Fla.- On June 30th, 1993, 64-year-old Fran Hendrickson walked out the front door of her home on Whippoorwill Drive in Punta Gorda. At the time, it was one of only two houses on the entire road. She got in her Buick Century Wagon that sported the Florida tag SNO BURD, and drove away. That was the last time she was seen alive.
Lieutenant Jim Kirdy was a young patrolman on the force with just a couple years on the job at the time.
"The normal protocol for a missing person was conducted and an investigation began", recalled Kirdy.
Now, 19 years later, Kirdy is in charge of the cold case file and the search for Hendrickson. For the last 19 years, police have believed that Hendrickson could very well still be at the wheel of her Buick, at the bottom of one of the many canals that snake throught Punta Gorda Isles.
The missing person's report says Hendrickson was not a very good driver and 19 years ago, the area looked very different than it does today. There were few homes in Punta Gorda Isles and many canals where a car could have disappeared.
"We have about 100 linear miles of canals in Punta Gorda Isles", said Kirdy.
Now, the Police Department is hoping that new technology will give new life to an old case.
"With the assistance of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office they recently obtained a top of the line side scanning sonar that is a top of the line piece of equipment", said Kirdy.
Next Friday, they will be using that sonar to scan the waterways to search for Hendricksons vehicle. Side scan sonar has been used in the past for the search but this newer version has much clearer image quality and will hopefully yield better results. Kirdy says finding Hendrickson will help bring closure to her family.
"They want to know what happened just as much as we do", said Kirdy.
Aside from the sonar search, the Police Department has also been able to put Hendricksons dental records DNA and vehicle information into national databases that have been formed over the last couple decades. None of that information has yielded any results.