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Body found in Edison pond identified as missing woman

By Staff | Jun 21, 2011

Police have identified the body found inside a submerged vehicle Friday as that of a Fort Myers woman who went missing last year.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday that the body was positively identified as Jennifer Lehman, 48, of 1717 Park Meadows Drive, Apt. 3. She was last seen on Aug. 13 after having dinner with a friend.
Lehman was the mother of Brittany Nicole Lehman, 20, who had died two months prior when a vehicle that she was riding in hit a tree head on.
Family reported Lehman had been depressed after Brittany’s death.
On Friday afternoon, authorities responded to Edison State College for a report of a submerged vehicle found in a retention pond. Sgt. Owen Keen, of the Florida Highway Patrol, said a maintenance worker had located the car.
“Because of the recent drought, the water levels in the retention pond had decreased to where the back of the car was sticking up out of the water,” he said.
The pond is located next to one of the parking lots at the college.
Dive teams checked the vehicle before it was pulled from the water. Once removed, authorities identified what appeared to be a body inside of it. There was also damage to the car’s undercarriage, likely due to rocks in the pond.
“We could tell the vehicle had been down there for a while,” Owen said.
Authorities checked the tag on the vehicle – a white 1993 Nissan 300ZX – and discovered that the car had been reported missing, along with Lehman.
The medical examiner later confirmed that the body was Lehman.
“We’re trying to get the timeline down,” Owen said Tuesday.
“We’re assuming that this crash occurred sometime in August,” he said. “We’re just trying to piece all of it together to get a complete picture.”
Keen noted that incidents such as this are not uncommon. In the past, authorities have pulled vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s from the canals on Alligator Alley as the water level drops and the vehicles become visible.
“It happens,” he said. “During drought season, we get a lot of these.”
Jeff Primich may have been the last person to see Lehman alive.
“She was a beautiful person,” the Fort Myers resident said Tuesday. “I hope she’s at a better place.”
On Aug. 13, the close friends had dinner at Minerva’s Grill in Fort Myers before heading downtown to check out some venues. Afterward, the two returned to Minerva’s, where they said goodbye and Primich went home.
“We had a great night,” he said, adding that Lehman had become distraught though toward the end of the evening. “She was going through some troubled times with the loss of her daughter.”
Primich said Lehman was never the same after Brittany died.
“She’s probably one of the most unique persons and one of the most fun loving,” he said, adding that Lehman had a heart of gold. “She was one of those people who would never give up – she always had a smile.”
“Once her daughter died, she never snapped back to that person,” he said.
Lehman’s ex-husband, Cape resident Steve Lehman, agreed.
“She was not herself after Brittany died,” he said.
“Our lives were flipped upside down,” he said. “Brittany was my daughter also and I just wish Jennifer had the support group that I had to get through this.”
After his ex-wife’s disappearance, time chipped away at hope.
“As time went on, the thought of her coming home was just going further and further away,” Lehman said. “She still was the mother of our child. This is obviously not the outcome I wanted. I just wanted her to come home.”
Primich also became concerned as time passed and Lehman remained gone.
“I didn’t have a good feeling about it,” he said.
Family and friends were trying to cope with the loss Tuesday.
“It’s hard on all of us,” Steve Lehman said. “We’re all struggling to get through this.”
Primich acknowledged that it has not really sunk in yet that his friend is
gone. He also voiced concern for Jennifer Lehman¹s mother, Beatrice Seales, who has now lost her daughter and her granddaughter within the last year.
“Up until now it was a question mark,” he said. “Now, at least, they have some closure and she can be put to rest.”
On June 11, 2010, Brittany Nicole Lehman was a front seat passenger in a vehicle traveling northbound on Del Prado Boulevard North. At about 8 p.m., the car drifted to the right and left the road, striking a tree in 3500 block.
Lehman, who was wearing a seat belt, died on scene from her injuries.
The driver of the vehicle, John Patrick Roberts, 23, of 2007 Buddy Lane,North Fort Myers, and a second passenger, John Turner, 18, of 7587 Marx Drive, Fort Myers, went to the hospital. They were treated and released.
An investigation found that Roberts had been traveling at a high rate of speed prior to the crash and alcohol was a factor. The vehicle was traveling an estimated 85 mph on a part of Del Prado that has a 50 mph speed limit.
Roberts has been charged with one count each of DUI manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury, DUI and vehicular homicide, and two counts of damage to person or property. He remains at the Lee County Jail on $52,500 bond.
Roberts’ next court appearance is scheduled for June 29.