Answers sought in death of Wylie mother found in van submerged in pond

By Valerie Wigglesworth

An autopsy is being done today in hopes of providing some answers in the death of a Wylie woman who was found inside her minivan at the bottom of a pond on Sunday.

Almaz Gebremedhin
Almaz Gebremedhin

Almaz Gebremedhin, 42, was last seen headed to work at a nursing home just before 5:30 a.m. Oct. 2. She never made it.

On Sunday, a search team brought in by the family and the Mutual Assistance Association of for the Ethiopian Community located her Chevy Venture at the bottom of a pond using sonar imaging. Police were called. The minivan was recovered with her body still inside.

Wylie Police Sgt. Donna Valdepena said the investigation continues. Detectives are mapping the scene and doing a further examination of the minivan to try to find out what happened, she said.

Valdepena said police were notified about 12 hours after Gebremedhin first went missing. Officers, off-duty officers, search volunteers and helicopters looked extensively in the area along Gebremedhin’s likely route to work, Valdepena said.

“We didn’t see any indication she went off the roadway anywhere,” she said. “We certainly looked for that.”

She said police also had tips since Gebremedhin went missing that she had been seen at other locations, including the airport, in south Texas and in Louisiana. Those tips were all vetted, Valdepena said. Wylie Police also got the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety involved.

“We searched a lot of places,” Valdepena said. “We talked to a lot of people.”

Gebremedhin lived in Wylie with her husband, two children, ages 8 and 10, and her mother. She worked as an aide dispensing medication at Garnet Hill Rehabilitation and Skilled Care.

Her family, with the help of the Ethiopian community group, hired a private investigator to help with the search. The investigator, in turn, brought in the nonprofit Team Watters Sonar Search & Recovery Inc. based in Moro, Ill.

The husband-and-wife team of Tammy and Dennis Watters specializes in underwater searches using side-image sonar equipment. Tammy Watters said the resulting images look like an ultrasound, providing a black and white image of everything underwater as if the pond were drained. She said past searches have revealed locations of weapons and safes in addition to vehicles.

The couple, who volunteer their time and equipment, searched three other ponds in Wylie before finding Gebremedhin’s minivan submerged in the 8-foot-deep pond along McMillen Road, Watters said.

Valdepena said nothing was visible from the surface of the murky pond at Muddy Creek Farms. “Even the family who lived there had no indication there was a van in their pond,” she said.

“I hate that we didn’t find her sooner,” Valdepena said. “We’re deeply saddened by that.”

Mac Mekonnen, executive director of the Ethopian community group, said Monday he was grateful for all the effort in the missing persons case. He thanked everyone involved in the search efforts since Oct. 2.

Watters said Monday that the find is bittersweet for her and her husband.

“You want to give the family closure,” Watters said. “But yet if we find it, it’s not the kind of outcome the family was wanting.”

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