The temperature was in the single digits when divers entered a frozen pond in rural Johnson County to search frigid waters for a man who was missing.

Divers were in the pond for about an hour, breaking ice and searching below the surface for Brian Persinger, 43, of Greenwood, who eventually was found deceased under the water.

He was a father to three children and stepfather to one. Persinger owned his own roofing business, Persinger Roofing, located in the heart of downtown Greenwood. He had graduated from Center Grove High School and got his start in the roofing business and learned the trade at Central Nine Vocational School in 1990, according to his company’s website.

Story continues below gallery

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said it suspects Persinger fell into the pond behind a home he owns between 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when he tried to save his dogs. Persinger was reported missing just before 10 p.m. Tuesday after his wife had not heard from him all day.

His wife, Jamie Persinger, called 911 after she stopped by a home the couple owned on County Road 350N in the Needham area and found his truck running in the driveway.

Jamie Persinger told police Brian had the couple’s dogs with him, leading them to believe he went onto the ice after one or both of the dogs.

The sheriff’s deputy noticed footprints leading to the pond behind the home that eventually went onto the ice. He called for help from the Needham Fire Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office dive team.

More than 30 emergency workers, including from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, assisted with the search, Sheriff Doug Cox said. Warm temperatures in December and very few days of freezing temperatures in January can make any pond that looks frozen over a little deceiving, Cox said.

“With the warm temperatures we have had in the last month, ice just can’t be trusted. We try to keep people informed of the dangers, but if there’s any advice I can give after seeing what I saw Tuesday night: stay off the ice,” Cox said.

The sheriff’s office determined Persinger had likely fallen through the ice during the day due to several factors learned in the investigation, Cox said. Persinger still had sunglasses on, which would indicate he was outside while the sun was out, Cox said.

A chaplain called to the scene coincidentally had driven by the property about 6 p.m. and saw Persinger’s truck in the driveway. Persinger’s wife also tried to reach him numerous times throughout the day, but couldn’t get a hold of him, which was unusual.

In Persinger’s truck, officers found a receipt from Home Depot from 12:16 p.m. Tuesday, likely right before he came to the house, according to the police report.

The dogs had not been located as of 2 a.m. Wednesday, and the conditions were too dangerous to search for them, Cox said.

“We started thinking about searching for the dogs after recovering the body, divers wanted to go back in, but it was too cold,” Cox said.

“Divers had to break a lot of ice to get to him. I’m sure it was very uncomfortable in the water. I’m a dog owner myself. I love my dog. But the best thing to do in a tragic incident like this is call 911,” Cox said.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.