CRIME
10/29/2012 11:11 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

Jake Ziegler And Ray Pierce Missing: Teenagers' Car Found In S.C. River With Two Bodies Inside

A car containing what authorities believe are the bodies of Jake Ziegler and Ray Pierce, two North Carolina teens missing more than three weeks, was found Sunday under a highway bridge in South Carolina, police said.

According to Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid, the vehicle was found by volunteer searchers from the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons out of Wilmington, N.C. The organization spotted the vehicle upside down in the Wateree River in Kershaw County, S.C., late Sunday afternoon. The vehicle was completely submerged in the water about 30 feet from the shoreline, Reid said.

Evidence at the scene suggests the vehicle went off the left side of Interstate 20 East near the 96 mile marker. It then traveled down a steep embankment near a bridge that crosses Lake Wateree and came to rest in the river, police said.

Autopsy results are pending, but police said the license plate on the vehicle matches the one of the vehicle the teens were driving, and it's likely the two victims are the missing young people.

Ziegler, 18, and Pierce, 17, both high school seniors from Sherrills Ford, N.C., have been missing since Oct. 13.

On the morning of their disappearance, the boys told friends they planned to drive to Myrtle Beach, S.C., but would be back by the following day. Pierce sent a text message to his girlfriend at about 1:30 a.m. saying, "We're almost at the beach." No other messages were sent.

From the start of the search, investigators operated under the suspicion that the boys had been in an automobile accident. The green Pontiac in which the pair was traveling made it difficult for authorities to spot the wreckage.

The "Help find Jake Ziegler & Ray Pierce" Facebook page issued a statement late Sunday night about the latest developments.

"Please continue to pray for [the families], for this will be the hardest thing they will go through in their life."

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