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Missing Craigslist car couple: Bodies found, vehicle submerged in lake

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-26 17:51:33-05

TELFAIR COUNTY, Ga. -- Two bodies, one male and one female, were recovered Monday in the case of a Marietta, Georgia, couple, who went missing after contacting a car seller on Craigslist.

The bodies have not yet been identified, said Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson. He said the couple's car was also found submerged in a nearby lake.

"It's not the outcome we had hoped for but, obviously, it's the one we have to deal with," Steverson said. "We'll analyze the vehicle, the bodies and hopefully we can come to some conclusion as to how they met their fate."

Earlier Monday, the suspect sought in the case who had posted a Craigslist ad turned himself in, the Telfair County Sheriff's Office said on its Facebook page.

Authorities have said that Ronnie "Jay" Adrian Towns, 28, was wanted on charges of giving false statements and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. His family was integral in securing his surrender, Steverson said.

Elrey Runion and his wife, June, placed an ad looking for a 1966 Mustang on the advertisements website. They drove to McRae from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta on Thursday to meet someone who responded to the ad, relatives said. No one has heard from them since.

Elrey and June Runion

Elrey and June Runion

"He was excited about the car. He had one when he got back from Vietnam," daughter Stephanie Bishop told CNN affiliate WSB.

Relatives filed a missing persons report after the couple failed to show up to babysit their grandchildren the next day.

'Last known communications'

Authorities are looking for Ronnie "Jay" Adrian Towns, who they believe responded to the ad. Towns, 28, was the "last known communications" with Runion, said Sheriff Chris Steverson of Telfair County. The couple made the trip to look at the car, and once Runion got to Telfair County, the suspect communicated with him, according to the sheriff. He did not say who called whom.

Ronnie Adrian Towns

Ronnie Adrian Towns

The suspect lied to investigators at an earlier interview, authorities said.

Two warrants

Police have issued two warrants for the suspect; one for making false statements to investigators and another one for criminal intent to commit theft by deception. A manhunt is underway.

For days, authorities have searched for the couple using helicopters and watercraft, and will continue to do so, Steverson said.

"I am eternally grateful for the prayers that have been lifted up, the encouraging words, complete strangers who have reached out, we are so thankful for that," said Josh Patterson, their son-in-law.

"Bud is a veteran. He and June are great people, they give so much, they are selfless."

The Runions were last seen driving a champagne 2003 GMC Envoy.

McRae is about 180 miles from Marietta.