Body of woman missing for 6 years found in submerged car in NJ river

SALEM, N.J. (KYW/CNN) - The family of a New Jersey woman last seen six years ago is hoping for answers after divers found her remains submerged in a car in the river.

The family of 52-year-old Vanessa Smallwood says the discovery of her remains is bittersweet. After six years, they finally have some sort of closure, but they also have more questions. It’s not yet known how Smallwood ended up in a vehicle in New Jersey’s Salem River or for how long she was submerged.

“Complete and total hell,” said Smallwood’s cousin, Jenuita Lobster, of the six years Smallwood has been missing. “Now comes the hard part: finding out the details.”

Vanessa Smallwood, 52, was a "sweetheart" who was loved by many and cared for her family, especially her boys, her cousin says.
Vanessa Smallwood, 52, was a "sweetheart" who was loved by many and cared for her family, especially her boys, her cousin says. (Source: Jenuita Lobster/KYW/CNN)

On Thursday afternoon, divers from the Walker Diving Underwater Construction Company were removing debris from the base of the Salem River when they spotted what appeared to be human remains in a submerged car.

Police were called to the scene to remove the car and remains. The remains were taken to the coroner for an autopsy, where they were identified as those of Smallwood.

Smallwood was last seen on Jan. 27, 2014, at the Any Garment Cleaners in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Lobster says the 52-year-old was her favorite cousin and was loved by many.

“Vanessa was a very small sweetheart. Vanessa was very caring, especially when it came to family and her boys,” Lobster said.

Police are still investigating.

State Police Recover Human Remains in Submerged Car Salem City, Salem County - The New Jersey State Police have...

Posted by New Jersey State Police on Thursday, January 16, 2020

Copyright 2020 KYW, Jenuita Lobster via CNN. All rights reserved.