Body is likely Debra Houser’s

Holly Abrams
The Journal Gazette

Whitley County officials believe they have found Debra Houser’s body nearly a month after her disappearance.

Acting on a tip they received Monday, three deputies and the Whitley County coroner searched a creek that crosses County Road 200 South on Tuesday morning.

Just after 9 a.m., they found what they believed to be Houser’s body in about 2 feet of water, just two miles south of her rural Columbia City home. Final identification is expected during an autopsy today, Sheriff Mark Hodges said.

The discovery came after law enforcement officials from several regional departments spent weeks searching for Houser, 49. They searched by foot, boat, helicopter and ATV and used cadaver-sniffing dogs. Firefighters and local residents also volunteered.

“Having found the body should aid in further prosecution,” Hodges said.

He declined to comment on the body’s condition or whether there were visible injuries. The area where the body was found, between County Road 575 West and County Road 625 West, had been searched previously, Hodges said.

Hodges declined to say who the tipster was, only that it was a person who walked into the sheriff’s department with information on the case. Hodges said the person is not a suspect in Houser’s death, nor the same one who told officials Nov. 18 that Houser was missing.

Houser’s ex-husband, Rodney Houser, 43, is the only person arrested in Debra Houser’s death. He is charged with murder and is being held without bail at the Whitley County Jail.

According to court documents, Rodney Houser asked a friend to help hide the body of his ex-wife, whom he killed after the couple argued Nov. 17.

Tuesday’s discovery brought some relief to Houser’s family, said her younger sister, Kathy Nicholson.

“It’s finally some closure,” she said. “Just when you thought all tips and leads were gone, here comes this one that pans out.”

Houser’s family previously said Debra and Rodney Houser had been living together “on and off” for five years after their divorce. They were married about three years. Debra Houser has two grown children.

“She’s gone. We can’t do anything to change it,” Nicholson said. “We are accepting it. … We just have to go forward from there.”

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