RENSSELAER — For nearly a year, the Help Find Bill Prater Facebook page sought information on the disappearance of the Rensselaer native who went missing last July during a floating trip on the Iroquois River.
So when skeletal remains were found Feb. 27, approximately five miles northeast of Rensselaer, family and friends expressed concern on Facebook that Prater had finally been found.
Their assumptions were proven correct after dental records obtained from two area dentists by the Human Identification Center in Indianapolis confirmed that the remains were Prater’s.
In a press release April 5 issued by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the department and Jasper County Coroner Andrew Boersma were notified of the center’s findings on March 30. Dr. Krista Latham, forensic anthropologist and director of Human Identification Center at the University of Indianapolis, examined the remains, which were sent to the center the week of March 12.
The center reached out to Dr. David H. Pfotenhauer, DDS, MDS, of Indianapolis, who positively identified the dental records with the remains.
On April 1, Boersma and Sgt. Rich Trail, who helped organize a search of the Iroquois River after Prater’s disappearance, met with Prater’s mother to advise her of the findings from the dental comparison.
Prater was reported missing July 6, 2020, when he became separated from his friends. He was last seen near the river southeast of Rensselaer at County Road 100 South, east of U.S. 231.
One of his friends placed Prater’s wallet, phone and t-shirt in Prater’s mailbox the day he went missing. Police investigated the disappearance, including interviewing the two people who last saw Prater.
JCSD ruled out any foul play.
With Prater’s body now identified, JCSO Sheriff Pat Williamson said his department will wait to see if there are any anomalies to the remains such as bone scraping caused by a knife or another instrument before determining the need for another investigation.
Searches of the Iroquois River Basin were conducted by JCSO, Indiana Department of Conservation, Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the White County Sheriff’s Office shortly after Prater when missing.
The remains were found more than eight months later by a pair of coyote hunters not far from where searches were conducted last summer.
The Jasper County Coroner’s Office and the Jasper County Sheriff’s police would like to thank all those volunteers who came out and helped search for Prater after his disappearance.