Accountant Missing Since July 7 Is Found Dead in His Car : Simi Valley: Body of Frank Plaice is discovered at bottom of embankment. He may have died from a medical condition, not the crash, officials say.


Missing for two weeks, a Simi Valley accountant was found dead Thursday at the wheel of his car, which had smashed into thick brush at the bottom of a steep embankment off the Simi Valley Freeway.

The body of Frank Plaice, 57, was still belted into his white 1994 Ford Probe when the car was spotted near Rocky Peak about 10:35 a.m. Thursday by Simi Valley police investigators in a sheriff’s helicopter.

A tow-truck driver winched the car back up the 100-foot slope, and Ventura County coroner’s investigators removed Plaice’s body for an autopsy scheduled today.


“Hopefully he didn’t suffer and wasn’t trapped in there,” his ex-wife, Jeanette Plaice, said Thursday as she waited for relatives to arrive in Simi Valley and plan the funeral. “We’re just kind of re-grieving, because we were really grieving originally in trying to find out where he was.”

Frank Plaice was last seen July 7 at the Simi Valley Elks Club.

He had stopped there--he often did as club secretary--to drop off some papers, a fellow Elk said.

No one had seen him since, and when his false teeth were discovered in his empty Simi Valley condo, his friends and family feared the worst. They sent out flyers and scoured the route he often drove from his Chatsworth office to his Ventura County clients.

The discovery of his body Thursday ended the grim search.

But it did not solve the mystery of his disappearance or the cause of his death.

A medical problem--not the crash-- may have led to Plaice’s death, said police and a coroner’s investigator.

The Ford had not rolled over, its air bag had inflated, and Plaice’s body showed no signs of massive injuries, said Simi Valley Police Lt. Mark Layhew. Also, the car’s pop-up headlights were up and its light switch was on, Layhew said, indicating Plaice may have gone over the side at night.

“It appears as though he may have succumbed to some sort of medical condition,” Layhew said.


Plaice’s family said he had complained of chest pains as recently as July 6, the day before he disappeared.

Doctors at Kaiser Hospital in Woodland Hills had diagnosed the pain as indigestion and prescribed medication for his stomach, but he still complained of the pain, said Gerry Grooms, his girlfriend of five years.

Jeanette Plaice said her ex-husband was the type who would rush himself to the hospital if he was feeling gravely ill.

“I think he must have had a sudden attack of something,” she said. “He threw on his clothes--it must have been like early morning--and he was trying to get to Kaiser when he realized it was more than indigestion . . . . Instead of calling for assistance, he went himself.”

That, she said, could also explain why Plaice, a diabetic with some missing teeth, had left behind his false teeth and insulin in his condo’s bathroom.

And California Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Dickie pointed out, “There’s no skid marks at all. I don’t think he braked . . . . He just veered off the roadway.”


Plaice’s car left the freeway grade at the eastern end of Simi Valley just west of Rocky Peak Road, plunged down the 100-foot embankment at a 45-degree angle and buried itself nose first in a stand of live oak.

Two slight gouges are visible where the Ford’s front end scraped over the asphalt curb, police said. But no one on the freeway or the Southern Pacific railroad tracks more than 200 feet below could have seen the wreck or the two smooth tracks the car had beaten into the brush as it barreled down the slope, they said.

“If you were right here,” Dickie said, “There’s no skid marks. There’s nothing to even intrigue you to come over here to look.”

Layhew added: “The big question is . . . why didn’t someone see him go over the side?

“Indications are, based on the fact that the headlights were in the up position and the switch was on, that he was driving in the hours of darkness and was driving in a break in traffic when he went over.”