Two Oregon divers have spent the past two years traveling throughout the U.S. trying to solve fatal cold cases. So far, the pair have assisted in findings answers in over two dozen cases, and more recently found the vehicle and remains of former Cornelius Mayor Ralph Brown, who went missing last year.
The two Oregonians, Jared Leisek and Doug Bishop, are the faces behind Adventures with Purpose, a YouTube channel that has amassed more than 2 million subscribers. The channel began with only Leisek, who was collecting trash and forgotten phones from the bottom of lakes and rivers.
He soon partnered with Bishop, who ran a towing company at the time, to help recover a vehicle he stumbled upon during one of his dives.
“That one vehicle soon led to us pulling out 30 vehicles locally in the city of Portland,” Bishop said.
Bishop said many cars that can be found in bodies of water have links to insurance fraud from people claiming their vehicle was stolen.
On one trip in May 2020, they pulled a vehicle out of the Willamette River in Milwaukie, Oregon, and found something unexpected.
“We’re pulling up a vehicle, what we thought was just another one of those stolen vehicles,” Bishop said. “We realized, unfortunately, there were human remains inside.”
The team immediately called the authorities.
“There’s a lot of shock,” Bishop said. “At that point, it’s a crime scene.”
The remains were later identified as Timothy Robinson, who was missing for 12 years.
Since then, Adventures with Purpose has fully shifted its focus to cold cases involving missing persons and vehicles.
Bishop said the limited resources and lack of leads from local authorities is what makes these cases go cold, and what allows the divers to look into them.
“These are cases that law enforcement and other agencies have deemed unworkable,” he said.
To find these vehicles submerged in bodies of water, the team uses sonar meant for fishing.
“We were teaching ourselves how to read sonar in a way that we didn’t know that there was no school or training for,” Bishop said. “In a weird way, we’re organically experts at reading sonar.”
The divers use a mix of down imaging, live scope and side scans to create an image of what’s on the very bottom of waterways. They look at the change of depths and what could potentially be the shape of a car.
Bishop was never a diver before joining the team, but he said he’s glad he made the switch from towing.
“The diving I do is really extreme and intense but I love it,” he said. “It’s providing answers for families all across the nation.”
To hear more from Think Out Loud’s conversation with Doug Bishop, click the “play” button at the top of the page.