STRUNK, Ky. — A pickup truck belonging to Jeff Shepherd, the 30-year-old McCreary County man last spotted more than three years ago in Winfield, was recovered from a pond just off U.S. Hwy. 27 here Sunday morning.
Human remains were also found inside the truck, and are presumed to be Shepherd’s. However, the identity of the body has not been confirmed. The remains were sent to the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfurt, Ky. for an autopsy.
The vehicle was located by a diving team made up of private citizens. Kentucky State Police and the McCreary County Sheriff’s Department were on hand as the divers went into the water and located the vehicle.
According to close associates of the Shepherd family, a tip was received on Saturday that led the dive team — known as Chaos Divers, out of Illinois — to the pond on Sunday morning.
The exact nature of that tip isn’t clear, but it appears to be connected in some way to a 2018 accident, in which a tractor-trailer rig crashed at the pond.
The pond in question is located just to the east of the highway, near Rock Quarry Road in Strunk, Ky. The Independent Herald has learned that the pond had previously been searched by Kentucky State Police as part of the investigation into Shepherd’s disappearance. That search took place in Spring 2020, but was fruitless.
It wasn’t clear what led KSP to the pond the first time.
In this instance, however, Shepherd’s family received a tip that caused them to reach out to Chaos Divers. The dive team had previously been to McCreary County in October to assist in the search for Shepherd. Despite the short notice, the dive team said they would be on hand by 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning, if permission was given to search the pond.
The owner of the property on which the pond is located gave permission for the team of volunteers to search.
Ironically, it wasn’t even the second or third time that authorities had been to the pond since Shepherd’s disappearance. In addition to the 2018 accident and the Spring 2020 search of the pond by KSP, a tractor was reportedly pulled from the pond just last month.
“We almost didn’t search (after the landowner said KSP had previously searched the pond),” a member of the family said. “But we figured we could at least eliminate it if we went and found nothing.”
Within 30 minutes of being on location, Chaos Divers located a vehicle on sonar in 15 ft. of water.
“We knew after seeing it on sonar that it was him,” the family member said.
A diver went into the water and removed the license plate from the vehicle. It was confirmed to be the 1984 Ford F150 belonging to Shepherd. At that point, a tow truck was used to pull the vehicle from the water. That’s when the remains were discovered inside.
The truck was ordered to be taken to the Pine Knot Fire Department, in order to give authorities privacy while the remains were removed from the vehicle.
Shepherd was last seen at Missy’s Bar in Winfield on the evening of March 12, 2018. His vehicle was reportedly later captured on video surveillance, being driven by another man.
In the more than 44 months that have followed Shepherd’s disappearance, his family and friends have searched relentlessly for his whereabouts, following anonymous tips and leads and attempting to keep his name and face in the public’s eye.
Reportedly, the Spring 2018 accident involving the tractor-trailer rig had taken out a section of guard rail that was supposed to help prevent vehicles that left the roadway from plunging over the embankment between the highway and the pond. That section of guard rail has since been replaced.
Members of the family said that discovering the truck and Shepherd’s remains helps bring closure to the situation.
“We have said from the beginning we just want him home,” they said.