Dive team searches pond for Sumter County man missing since June

Claudio Carvayal Hernandez reported missing June 21

BUSHNELL, Fla. – Detectives in Sumter County are following up on a new lead in the search for a missing man, deploying a dive team to search a Bushnell pond.

According to the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, Claudio Carvajal Hernandez was reported missing on June 21. He was last seen on Belt Avenue in Bushnell.

On Wednesday night, Sheriff's Office detectives received information leading them to search for Hernandez in the pond. A dive team search of the water is underway Thursday afternoon.

"We don't know what we're looking for, to be honest with you," Capt. Tony Prevatt with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said. "Could be a bone, weapon, cell phone, we don't know." 

Deputies said Carvajal Hernandez stopped going to work, which prompted family to call and report him missing. 

"I hate to say it this way, but (he) kind of fell off the face of the earth," Prevatt said. "He was active on social media before he went missing. Social media stopped, no kind of debit card transactions, no credit card transaction and I want to say he didn't pick up his last paycheck from his employer." 

Deputies knocked on doors and notified neighbors they were searching the retention pond on West Noble Avenue near West Street. 

"Kind of freaky since we're out in the country," neighbor Sally Liberatore said. "You don't expect it." 

Deputies struggled to sift through several feet of water as well as several feet of mud. 

"As soon as the divers get in, they sink up to their waist in mud," Prevatt said. "So they're pushing their way around to see if there's anything in the water at this point."

Last month, deputies discovered human remains near a burn barrel in Carvajal Hernandez's backyard. 

"Right now, we're still waiting on the DNA evidence comparison to come back and identify if that's Mr. Hernandez we located," Prevatt said.

Now, neighbors hope this search can bring some closure to the family. 

"They've grieved enough," neighbor Cindy Kayser said. "Two months is a long time for a missing person. They don't need it."

Dive crews finished their first day of searching the pond Thursday after seven hours. Deputies said they plan to continue their search and check another nearby retention pond on Friday as well.

Anyone with information regarding his disappearance is asked to call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477).

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