FEASTERVILLE, Pa. (CBS) — A family is heartbroken after their missing daughter is found dead. Twenty-six-year-old Casey Johnston’s body was recovered Sunday from a Philadelphia creek, one day after her car was found in the Northeast.
CBS3’s Alicia Roberts spoke exclusively with Casey’s family and the private investigator whose search ultimately led authorities to her body.READ MORE: President Biden Approves Disaster Funding For Two More Pennsylvania Counties
Casey’s mom and dad say despite the tragic outcome, finding Casey and seeing the outpouring of support from the community has given them the strength to carry on as they grieve.
“We figured out that we had a helicopter available to us, and I jumped on that,” private investigator Kevin Ryan said.
Ryan, brought on by Johnston’s family, shared exclusive video of Saturday’s search flight chartered by Sky River Helicopters, including the moment he spotted the Temple student’s 2016 Ford Focus inside a heavily wooded area near Woodhaven Road and Route 1.
“I noticed that there was a big broken tree in the middle of this, and it was fresh so I knew that we had a shot here and as we turned left, I could see something discolored,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s team traveled the I-95 route, the 26-year-old would have taken to her Lower Southampton home on the morning of July 10 after leaving a friend’s house in the city.
“It was silver, and as we got closer around the turn, I could tell it was a car,” Ryan said.
On Sunday, officials pulled that car out, but still no signs of Casey.
“When they said she wasn’t in the car, I got very excited. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe she made it out,'” mother Carolann Johnston said.READ MORE: 'My House Was Targeted': Philadelphia Anti-Violence Activist Speaks Out After Home Firebombed
Casey’s family never gave up hope, blanketing the area with posters and social media to help bring Casey home.
“It’s been horrible, waiting and looking and looking and looking and looking,” Carolann Johnston said.
Philadelphia Police marine units found Casey’s body in the Byberry Creek less than a mile from her car on Sunday. Police believe Casey lost control and crashed into a tree, her body was thrown from the car and carried downstream.
On Monday, officials returned personal belongings found inside Casey’s car.
“Everything in her bag was ruined except for a Ziploc bag of all the little things the kids made for her,” Ryan said.
Preserved in the wreck were pictures from her students at Neshaminy Kids Club where she worked, along with answers — finally — as to what happened.
“To know that she was at peace now,” Carolann Johnston said.
“I feel so blessed that everyone came out to help for my daughter, to find my daughter. Thank everybody, thank you,” Joe Johnston said.MORE NEWS: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming?
Casey’s funeral is set for this Friday. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations for a scholarship in Casey’s honor.