GROVE, Okla. (KSNF) – Authorities thought the disintegrating and rusted-out remains of a 55-gallon drum found at the bottom of a northeast Oklahoma lake last month might hold clues to the disappearance of a woman missing since 1998. But after an examination of the barrel and the area surrounding it, Delaware County Sheriff James Beck confirmed they have not discovered any remains or artifacts that indicate a crime.

Peggy A. Sweeten was last seen on Jan. 13, 1998. The 52-year-old former special education teacher and grandmother disappeared from her Grand Lake residence without a trace, leaving her car, clothing, photos and personal mementos behind.  

Peggy’s husband, James “Jim” Sweeten, is considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance and presumed death, according to Delaware County authorities.

In April, state and local authorities located a 55-gallon drum in a cove near Sweeten’s former Grand Lake residence. 

Investigators and divers began to pull the drum from the murky waters of Grand Lake, where they suspected the remains of Peggy Sweeten lay in a watery grave. 

Her son, Patrick Sweeten, had told investigators in 1998 he noticed a 55-gallon drum on his parent’s property was suddenly missing. Twenty-five years later, cold case detectives had hoped the recently-discovered barrel might be the same one, and hold key evidence.

When first located, the barrel was standing upright, partially submerged in the cove. Beck still questioned the position of the barrel.

“Something had to weigh it down for it to be upright all these years,” Beck said. “What probably has happened is whatever has weighted it down has been has been washed away.”

Peggy and James Sweeten. (Courtesy of Carolyn Houston)

In the end, the barrel provided no new clues to Peggy’s disappearance.

Her son believes his father may have the answers to what happened.

Patrick Sweeten told investigators he learned his mother was missing in March 1998 and had to force his father to file a missing person’s report in June.

In 1998, Jim Sweeten told authorities his wife left with a man she had met online, the warrant stated. However, her son told investigators Peggy Sweeten did not use email and never had an email address.

Jim Sweeten has not been arrested nor charged.

Several messages left for Jim Sweeten were not returned.