Ravalli County Sheriff's Office asks for help finding man last seen at Little Trapper Peak overlook

HAMILTON - The Ravalli County Sheriff's Office brought in search dogs and a helicopter over the weekend in an effort to locate a Wyoming man reported missing in the Little Trapper Peak area.

Barry Ford, 44, was last seen at the Little Trapper Peak overlook on the West Fork of the Bitterroot drainage about three weeks ago.

His camp, consisting of a van and storage-type trailer, was located in the area near the overlook, said Ravalli County Undersheriff Perry Johnson.

"He's apparently a back-to-nature kind of fellow," Johnson said. "He'd been on a trek and had traveled through Oregon and California. He had no place to be and no reason to be on time."

His family contacted the sheriff's office after they didn't hear from him, Johnson said.

Ford's family said he had two motorcycles and a large black Lab. All of those were also missing.

The Little Trapper Creek area is north of the Trapper Creek Job Corps facility.

Johnson said a number of different dog teams were dispatched to the scene in an effort to track Ford's movements from the camp. The dogs were trained to pick up scent of cadavers or trace evidence, like blood.

"The dogs didn't pick up anything at or around the camp," Johnson said.

A Life Flight helicopter from Missoula also performed two searches of the area.

"We wanted the helicopter to take a look just in case he was hurt and needed to signal for help," Johnson said.

Ford is a white male, 5 feet 11 inches tall, about 170 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He frequently wears a knit cap, leather hat or handkerchief on his head.

Anyone with information about Ford is asked to contact the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office at 375-4060 or sheriff@ravallicounty.mt.gov.

Ravalli Republic editor Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

Cold case: Penn State pigs

In an open field near the mulch plant on Pennsylvania State University's State College campus, the body of a pig was slowly decaying in a wire cage, the molecules of putrescence collecting on an array of bristlelike suspended fibers.

While the dead animal had been outside for just two weeks, it was already reduced to a skeleton and a limp bag of empty skin. "The maggots work fast," noted chemist Daniel Sykes, who teaches at Penn State's school of forensics.

This is the fifth pig that Sykes and his students have laid to rest out there - part of an experiment to catalog the trace compounds released during decomposition. That, he said, might lead to new techniques for sniffing out homicide victims or identifying mass graves that hold victims of human-rights abuses.

The experiment is also part of a new Penn State forensics school seeking to bring scientific rigor to a beleaguered profession. Forensics isn't the neat and precise science so often portrayed on television. This year, the National Academy of Sciences exposed the shoddy standards accepted in most crime labs in almost every area of forensics except DNA.

Robert Shaler, a lead author on the report and director of the Penn State program, said that for decades forensics work was often done by technicians without training in scientific reasoning.

In some cases, that led to false convictions, later overturned by DNA evidence.

To address this problem, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences has been establishing uniform standards for college forensics programs. It recently granted accreditation to Penn State's program, placing it among 25 accredited programs in the country.

AAFS director Nancy Jackson said the number of students going into forensics programs was increasing but the number of graduates was leveling off, thanks to increasingly difficult math and science courses. "That sometimes dampens their enthusiasm," she said.

Students in the Penn State program not only learn to use equipment, they also build the devices to understand how they work, said Shaler, who had been director of forensic biology for the New York City medical examiner and leader of the effort to identify 9/11 victims using DNA. About 60 undergraduates are majoring in forensics. The program takes only 16 graduate students every year.

Earlier this month, the most recent pig used to map the scent of decomposition was used as part of a mock crime scene designed to help tomorrow's investigators think more scientifically.

The skin and bones were scattered around a field, and students were led out there without being told what they'd find, said Sykes, who had started the experiment with one of the program's graduate students, Sarah Jones.

For each pig, polymer-coated fibers suspended over the animal absorb trace compounds given off by the process of decay. Every day, Jones had been picking up some of the fibers, putting them on ice, and carrying them back to the lab to be analyzed.

Pigs are about the same size and body composition as humans, so they decay in roughly the same stages, Sykes said. It is possible to do similar experiments on human bodies - and some scientists have - but they can't generally start taking data at the moment of death.

This is important because bodies release a different mix of chemicals at different stages. Within the first six hours, the pigs give off organic compounds aptly called cadaverine and putrescine, and these or perhaps other similar gases start attracting insects.

The chemical-absorbing fibers cost thousands of dollars, but they might not be necessary in a field sensor. The purpose at this stage is just to develop a chemical profile, Sykes said, so students would know what to design a sensor to look for.

So far, they've been able to use the fibers to catalog hundreds of chemicals released by the pigs, an array that evolves day by day as the pigs decay. The pigs tend to decompose faster in hot, damp weather - something the researchers are also noting as they study pigs in different seasons.

Jones reported these results last month at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Finding victims of mass murder overseas remains another big challenge for forensic anthropologists, said Arpad Vass of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Right now dogs can be trained to find cadavers, relying on their ability to sniff out minute traces of telltale compounds.

"What dogs can do is unbelievable," Vass said, but they don't always want to work and they can communicate only with barking. Because the chemicals emitted by bodies can migrate, dogs sometimes can't home in on the exact spot. A device might be unable to outsniff a dog, Vass said, but there are circumstances where it might be more practical.

Still, he cautioned, to truly understand human decay, you need human bodies. His university is home to a "body farm" where he and other researchers can do experiments on donated human bodies.

So far, he said, his work has led to a catalog of 478 volatile chemicals given off by a decaying human. That in turn has led to a portable body detector, called Labrador, which he said can be used in conjunction with cadaver-sniffing dogs.

What the body farm can't do is study bodies in the first day or hours after death. "We're not hovering over them when they die," Vass said. There are consent issues and mourning issues that need to be worked through.

Still, Vass said, pigs give off a different set of fragrances. Humans emit fluorocarbons and other fluorinated compounds, for example, thanks to fluoride in our drinking water. Pigs do not.

"It's wonderful that more people are getting involved in this field," Vass said. "More research needs to be done." But he warns that researchers who work with pigs need to be aware of the pig/human differences. "Otherwise you've just got a pig detector."

Acton police halt search of Nashoba for man, Concord continues

Acton, Mass. - More than a week after he was first reported missing, the disappearance of 83-year-old Concord resident Richard “Dick” Nethercut remains a mystery.

Since Saturday, the search has centered on the Nashoba Brook Conservation area in Acton, where Nethercut’s red 2001 Ford Taurus was located that afternoon. Prior to that, the last time anyone saw or heard from Nethercut was Sept. 19, when he was spotted buying oil at auto shop in Acton and called a friend around 6 p.m., police said.

By Monday afternoon, search teams with dozens of officers from Acton, Concord, Littleton and state police had covered most of the conservation area’s estimated 400 acres and up to 800 miles of trails, but there was still no sign of Nethercut, said Lt. Robert Parisi of the Acton Police Department.

By Monday night, Acton police had called of their search, but Concord police planned to continue to look in the conservation area, along with the state Environmental Police, later in the week.

According to Parisi, the Nashoba Brook Conservation area is approximately 400 acres of forest with conservation trails, swampy areas and a brook running through the woods, which connect to the Boy Scout land in Concord.

An 83-year-old Concord Greene resident known for his work with prison outreach programs, Nethercut was reported as a possible missing person after missing a meeting. At that point the Concord Police Department immediately launched into a multi-phase investigation and entered Nethercut and his motor vehicle, a red 2001 Ford Taurus, into state and national computer databases.

“Nothing we’ve learned so far has sent us in a specific direction,” Concord Police Chief Len Wetherbee said Tuesday. “We’re welcoming and requesting any and all phone calls. Any information whatsoever could be helpful in establishing more patterns of his life. Until we actually get a sighting of the person, we have to explore every avenue.”

After Acton police reported finding Nethercut’s missing vehicle at the Nashoba Brook conservation area off of Davis Road in Acton police from Concord, Acton, Littleton, as well as Massachusetts environmental and state police, area K-9 units and specially trained civilian teams with cadaver-sniffing dogs searched the area popular among local hikers.

Wetherbee also said Concord Police have identified a witness who says Nethercut’s car may have been parked at the conservation area as far back as Sunday, Sept. 20 — six days prior to when Acton Police reported finding the vehicle.

Aside from that, leads have been few and far between. Nethercut, who lived alone, allegedly phoned a friend the evening of Sept. 19, but he has not been seen or heard from since.

Wetherbee said Nethercut’s financial records and credit cards show no activity since he went missing and, although his car was parked at the conservation area, there is no evidence indicating whether Nethercut actually entered the woods or if he was alone when the car was parked there.

“From what we found in his apartment and the interior of his car, it would lead one to believe that wherever he went, he intended to return home shortly,” Wetherbee said. “That’s the appearance it had. His medicine and cell phone were at home. His mail was on the front seat of the car; he had an appointment Sunday evening.”

Because of the lack of a personal sighting, police have not ruled out any possibilities, including the chance that foul play was somehow involved in Nethercut’s disappearance, Wetherbee said. Separate teams of Concord police officers are working different angles so as not to taint each other’s investigations.

“It’s exhausting and we’re putting in hundreds of hours, but we’re not stopping,” Wetherbee said. “We appreciate all the phone calls. We fully understand the frustration people are feeling with the inability to find any trace of his disappearance at this point, and we share that frustration. But we are coordinating with every resource that’s available to us and not leaving any avenue untraveled. We’re working this full-time and this case will never be closed until we have a logical conclusion to it.”



‘Out of character’

Nethercut, whose daughter, Jaina, was raped and murdered in a Seattle hotel in 1978, has been an active volunteer with prison outreach programs and an outspoken advocate against the death penalty in Massachusetts. A member of the Alternatives to Violence Project, Nethercut was to receive the “Volunteer of the Year” award Sept. 28 at the MCI-Norfolk volunteer appreciation dinner.

Friends of Nethercut’s say disappearing unannounced is out-of-character for the responsible and sharp man who was reportedly in good health despite undergoing open-heart surgery this past May.

“It was entirely out of character for him,” said the Rev. Dr. John Lombard of Trinitarian Congregational Church. “Dick was active on all levels of his life — by that I mean intellectually, spiritually and physically.”

A retired diplomat from the foreign services agency, Lombard said Nethercut wrote letters of reference for young people going into that field and kept up on what was going on in the world and has been very active in the church’s outreach arm and tutored young people for the forgiveness part of TriCon’s confirmation program.

About 150 people — doctors, ex-inmates and people from different prison and religious programs — attended a prayer service and reflection for Nethercut Sept. 25 at TriCon, which included a number of readings and prayers, candle lightings and a heartfelt hymn, “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

“Quite frankly it was a very moving experience. We had a very large group of people and from lots of different walks of life that Dick’s life has touched and continues to touch in so many ways,” Lombard said. “People were obviously very heavy of heart and anxious and concerned.”

On Tuesday, Lombard remained cautiously optimistic his friend and parishioner would turn up in good health and fine spirits. “Our hope is undimmed but our concerns are heightened,” he said.

Concord police are asking that anyone with any information about Nethercut contact them immediately at 978-318-3400.

More volunteers sought in search for missing woman

The parents of a missing Portage la Prairie woman are seeking volunteers to help them this weekend as they search for their daughter, whose disappearance is now a homicide investigation, RCMP confirm.

Jennifer Catcheway's family resumed the search near Dakota Tipi First Nation this week, knowing there is a narrow window of opportunity before snowfall.

Cadaver dogs are being used to find Catcheway's remains, if they are in the area.

"We want peace. We need her to be brought home," Jennifer's mother Bernice Catcheway said by telephone during yesterday's search. "Part of (us) is out there. We need that closure as a family, as a community."

Manitoba Rural Search and Rescue has been assisting the Catcheways and co-ordinating ground searches for some time. Its provincial search commander, George Leonard, said a limited number of volunteers are needed this weekend.

He prefers volunteers with trained expertise, including a background in using global positioning systems (GPS).

Catcheway said volunteers can report to the search base at Dakota Tipi's school.

This week RCMP publicly confirmed Catcheway's disappearance is being treated as a homicide.

Foul play was a theory previously shared with and suspected by Catcheway's family.

"We've always said that all along," Bernice Catcheway said. "Jennifer wouldn't just disappear. She wouldn't just leave home."

RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said the last confirmed sighting of Jennifer Catcheway was in Grand Rapids on June 19, 2008. That was the teen's 18th birthday.

Based on tips, however, Catcheway's relatives, believe she left Grand Rapids and arrived in Dakota Tipi for a party the following day.

That's why Catcheway's family is searching a large area surrounding the reserve just outside Portage.

Leonard said the family has done a lot of legwork to put together a timeline of the hours before the young woman vanished.

In the meantime, Bernice Catcheway is hoping anyone who knows something to call the RCMP or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

"Let somebody know so you can end this nightmare for us," she said.

A $10,000 reward is offered for the tip that leads to a resolution.

"Somebody knows something, and it's about time somebody comes forward," Leonard said. "We need to solve this."

Search for mom missing after Georgia flooding continues

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Punctuality was one of Debbie Hooper's best traits.

The 44-year-old grandmother from Whitesburg, Georgia, was always on time for her play dates with her baby granddaughter. She was always on time picking up her 15-year-old son from school.

So when Hooper, who juggled two jobs to support her family, didn't appear at her dispatch job for a transportation company last Monday morning, her daughter Jessica Bartke, 19, knew something was wrong.

Her mother's cell phone went straight to voicemail. Co-workers hadn't seen the bubbly, kindhearted woman with curly brown hair and a magnetic presence.

"She's always at work," said Bartke, who lives in Winston, Georgia, about 10 minutes from her mother's home. "She was never lazy. I knew something had to be wrong."

Nearly a week after the torrential downpours that left the metro Atlanta area drenched, authorities are still searching for Hooper's body, which was last believed to have been in the Dog River in Douglas County, west of Atlanta. Late Monday afternoon, authorities discovered a female body in the Dog River Reservoir, said Brad Robinson, chief deputy of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. They are waiting for lab work to identify the body, which is expected to be released Tuesday afternoon.

Six flood-related deaths already have been reported in Douglas County.

Bartke believes her mother went missing Sunday, September 20, the eve of her 44th birthday.

Last Friday, when the water ebbed, a search crew of nearly 25 law enforcement officers from Carroll and Douglas counties uncovered Hooper's vehicle, a Jeep Liberty, stuck in the water in the Dog River. The team also recovered Hooper's purse.

"It was like putting an ant in front of the fire hose," said Sheriff Phil Miller of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "The little Jeep Liberty looked like it had been put in a crusher and beat into pieces."

The following Saturday morning, more than two dozen authorities and four cadaver dogs continued to search the Dog River area. Miller said the water flow had been constant, which means the body could have drifted into the Chattahoochee River.

Hooper remains the last missing flood victim in the Atlanta area, but in Tennessee, a man who disappeared after swimming in an overflowing ditch on a dare is still missing.

This month's storm has been one of the worst in Southeastern U.S. history. The death toll in Georgia and Alabama has risen to 10.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has declared a state of emergency in 17 flood-stricken counties, and State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine estimated that the flooding has caused $250 million in losses.

Bartke, Hooper's daughter, has taken her 15-year-old brother into her home. She says they are both distressed about not knowing where their mother may be.

"We talked every day," Bartke said. "We spoke to each other even if we were busy, even if it was for two seconds just to say 'Mom, I love you. I'm busy right now, but I will call you back.' "

Rocky Boy drowning victim identified

Rocky Boy police have identified the victim of a Sept. 19 drowning at Bonneau Dam on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation as Box Elder High School senior Shalako St. Marks, 18, son of Louis and Cindy (Randa) St. Marks, both of whom preceded him in death. Rocky Boy Police Department supervisory criminal investigator Grace Has Many Horses said St. Marks’ body was recovered between 6:30 and 7 a.m. Friday, one week after the drowning occurred. “I think it was just a case of an inexperienced swimmer who couldn’t get back to shore,” Has Many Horses said. She said a group apparently decided to go swimming at the reservoir due to the heat — the high temperature at the reservoir was about 100 degrees. Darin Hannum, principal at Box Elder High School, said the school faculty and staff has been very involved, including helping during the search last week. He said the school’s counselors and also representatives of Rocky Boy’s White Hope Center have been providing help and information for the students at the school last week and this week. He added that help has Been provided for the school faculty and staff, who also had a difficult time with the news of St. Mark’s drowning. He said the students at the school have dealt well with the drowning and seem to be doing better today. “Last week it was a little rough,” he added. He said the Box Elder staff did a phenomenal job in helping the students deal with the news. “They did what it took to be good for (the students,)” Hannum said. Has Many Horses said swimming can be dangerous at Bonneau Reservoir, located in Chouteau County at the southern part of the reservation. The steep drop at the reservoir — the depth five feet from shore is 25 feet, 40 feet 10 feet from shore and is 90 feet at the deepest part of the reservoir — probably was part of the cause of the drowning, she said. “It’s very deep there,” Has Many Horses said. Extensive interviews with witnesses, five other swimmers and two young children, lead her to conclusion that St. Marks simply couldn't get back to shore and sank, she said. The other swimmers were on the other side of the dam when St. Marks disappeared, and they searched for him for about 15 minutes before calling the Rocky Boy police. Has Many Horses said the search for St. Marks was extensive for the seven days before his body was found. More than 20 representatives of Rocky Boy agencies including the Rocky Boy Police Department, Ambulance Service, Water Resources Department, Forestry Department and Fish and Game Department, searched for the body. The Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue Team also provided help, with 14 people assisting in the search, including divers. High Country Search and Rescue also provided a water cadaver dog to help in the search, Has Many Horses said. Many residents of Rocky Boy also came to help with the search and to provide food for the searchers, she said. “It was a big effort from the community … ,” Has Many Horses said. “It was a long ordeal for us, especially the family.” The reason the search took so long was due to conditions at the reservoir, both because of the depth and the extent of algae and vegetation, she said. Despite having high-powered diving lights, the searchers had low visibility. “The divers said they couldn’t see more than two feet in front of them,” Has Many Horses said.

Union Man’s Body Recovered In Lake Monticello

Union Man’s Body Recovered In Lake Monticello

Published: September 29, 2009

Fairfield Coroner Barkley Ramsey says 34 year old Michael Shane Bledsoe’s body was recovered from Lake Monticello in Fairfield County at around 11:15 Tuesday morning. Recovery teams returned to the lake for the fourth to look for Bledsoe’s body. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

**Monday**
Family, friends and rescue workers are looking to recover the body of a Union County man Monday, who was reported missing on Lake Monticello.

Fairfield County Coroner Barkley Ramsey says cadaver dogs are being brought in from Charleston to assist in the search.

The man was fishing with friends at 6:30pm Saturday when he jumped off their boat into the water to cool off. Witnesses say the man went under the water and never resurfaced.

His name has not been released, but we’re told he is from Union County. There was a search Saturday night that ended at 9:30pm.

Crews from Union, Fairfield and Prosperity searched the area - along with the Department of Natural Resources - for ten hours Sunday before stopping.

The coroner says the effort is in recovery mode now and will continue Tuesday.

Eastlake house searched for body

Denise Shimrock is hoping to give her son, Eddie Vannatter Jr., a proper burial.

The Mentor woman stood outside her son's last known address in Eastlake on Monday morning while crime officials conducted a search for his remains inside of the home.

Vannatter was last seen there in October 2003 by his roommate John Caputo. Vannatter, who would now be 38, and Caputo, 37, lived together at 1227 E. 345th St.

Click to enlarge

Maribeth Joeright/MJoeright@News-Herald.com Denise Shimrock of Mentor and Michelle Thomas of Willoughby, left, talk about the disappearance of their son and brother Eddie Vannater six years ago. A home in Eastlake was searched Monday looking for clues in the unsolved case.�

Caputo told police he last saw Vannatter with a friend known only as "Mark." He told detectives that a physical altercation took place at their residence involving himself, Vannatter and Mark, and that Vannatter left the apartment with Mark, police said.

Shimrock no longer believes the story told by Caputo.

"He told me that Eddie took off to Geneva to cook meth," she said. "We never heard from him again.

"I don't believe the story at all. At the time I did because once he was back on drugs, he didn't call me. He distanced himself from me," she added, acknowledging her son battled with addiction for up to 14 years.

When her son didn't call or show up on Thanksgiving or Christmas that year, she started to worry and filed a police report in January 2004.

Caputo continued to call the family asking for updates about Vannatter's whereabouts, she said.

Eastlake Police Lt. Tom Doyle wouldn't go into much detail about Monday's search.

"We are doing a search for some evidence to discover where Eddie may be," he said outside of the home. "This is where they used to live. This is the last place he was seen."

The search began about 9:30 a.m. In addition to Eastlake police, a Lake County forensics specialist was on the scene as well as the Lake County Sheriff's Office and a cadaver dog from the Geauga County Sheriff's Office.

J and M Carpet of Willoughby was on hand to lift up the carpet and put it back in place.

Furniture was brought out into the driveway, and the cadaver dog sniffed through the yard.

Officers, as well as the dog, went through a crawl space underneath the house.

The evidence that was found, which was unspecified, will be tested in the Lake County Crime Lab, Doyle said.

"This will remain under investigation," he said.

When asked if the house had been searched within the past six years, Doyle offered no comment.

Shimrock said police have searched the outside of the home in the past, but she was unaware of a search as extensive as Monday's.

When asked if Caputo was a suspect, Doyle said, "I have nothing to say about Mr. Caputo."

In a 2008 News-Herald article, Doyle said he had been in contact with Caputo and that he remains a "person who may have more information" about Vannatter's disappearance.

Shimrock, as well as Vannatter's sister Michelle Thomas of Willoughby, said they aren't accusing Caputo of anything; they just wish he would cooperate more.

Caputo did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

In the same 2008 News-Herald article, Caputo said he hopes as much as anyone that new information surfaces about Vannatter.

"If anyone's got anything, I hope they come forward to give some peace to his family and friends," he said. "I gave all my information to the police and I don't really have any more information to give. The fact is, Eddie started hanging around some shady guys and I booted them out. It was a minor physical altercation and I haven't seen or talked to Eddie since."

Shimrock doesn't know how much longer she can wait for answers.

"I'm confident they'll find something in there," she said.

"We are hoping for closure. It's been a long time, and I need a place to put flowers where my son is. I need to bury him and give him a proper burial and give him a place where I can go visit him.

"It's been very hard."

Search for Lands turns up no new info

MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) - About 50 people on Saturday searched for Mary Lands, the Marshall woman who disappeared more than five years ago.

But no clues were discovered on the eight-hour search, complete with cadaver dogs. The hunt was throughout Albion and Marshall, in Calhoun County.

The search team found one of the balloons launched two years ago at a vigil, marking the third anniversary of Lands' disappearance. It was discovered just west of Albion, much to the delight of Lands' parents.

Her fiance, Christopher Pratt, has been a suspect in the case previously, but never charged. Currently, he is in jail for assault on another woman.

No additional searches have been planned for this year.

Tip sparks search for remains

CITY OF NEWBURGH — In the basement of a house where a killer's relatives once lived, police dug into the floor hoping to solve a 10-year-old mystery.

Town of Newburgh police were looking for Dominick Pendino's remains on Tuesday when they arrived at 264 Washington St. Larry Weygant and Greg Chrysler killed Pendino in 1999, leaving blood on his driveway but no answers as to the location of his body. The two men were convicted of second-degree murder in 2000 and exhausted their state and federal appeals. Weygant is serving 27 years to life in prison, while Chrysler is serving 25 to life.

They have never said what they did with Pendino's body, leaving relatives and police to search for the answer on their own.

Town detectives thought they had a good lead on Tuesday. Armed with a search warrant, they had to pull plywood off the windows and doors to get inside the abandoned two-story building on Washington Street. George Weygant, an elder relative of Larry Weygant, had lived there before he died in 2002. The house has since become a haven for drug addicts who climb over mounds of trash in the backyard and enter through the back windows.

In the basement, detectives and officers worked under floodlights with shovels, pry bars and rakes. They paused only to allow periodic searches by state police cadaver dogs. Four hours later, the cops emerged dusty and tired with no sign of Pendino.

Over the years, police have followed a number of tips and conducted searches throughout the region. The familial link to Larry Weygant paired with the unpublicized details known by the source lent the most recent tip an air of credibility, but it ended with the same result as the others.

"It's not the first search, and it won't be the last," Lt. Michael Clancy said.

Detective Bill Leonick has worked the case for 10 years. He pulled off his blue rubber gloves and helped load the tools Tuesday afternoon.

"We'll find him," he said.

They sealed up the house, and Leonick headed off to tell Pendino's family.

Family Reacts to Foot in River

ust this week, they found out a foot discovered in the Pecactonica River this summer belonged to the man.

"It's in my wallet every day and I just take it with me every day," Eva Fane said.

A special picture of Fane and Stanley Driver, the man she planned to marry but hasn't seen in almost two years.

"Always felt like he could come home any minute but you don't hear anything for so long, you just don't know," Fane said.

Driver went missing in December of 2007. This week Fane found out a foot found in the Pecatonica River this summer, belonged to her fiancee.

"It just doesn't seem real," Fane said.

Disbelief that's hitting driver's youngest brother too.

"I was praying it wasn't, turned out it was, I was hurting," Johnny Driver said.

He says the identification of his brother's foot brings little closure to his family's ongoing ordeal.

"Ups and downs, can't never be, can't never be happy," Johnny Driver said.

He and other family members say getting driver's body back to bury would help. And even more so, knowing why he's gone.

"What could have happened, I just don't understand," said Driver's father, Willy Driver.

"Why anybody would hurt Stanley, I don't know," Fane said.

Right now, Fane's pushing authorities to continue searching for Driver's body. But they're holding off until another spotting.

"That doesn't make you feel very good either," Fane said.

A tough situation for a financee and family, yearning for something more about the man they loved.

Stepehenson County Sheriff Dave Snyders says they're holding off on a search for driver's body because they've already scoured the Pecatonica River with divers, cadaver dogs and sonar technology, and nothing's turned up.

He says they'll go back if the body or another body part is spotted. And he urges anyone with information on this case to call his office or the Freeport Police Department.

Missing Madison Heights woman found dead in the water

MADISON HEIGHTS — A body found floating near the Gravely Shoals Light in Saginaw Bay has been confirmed as that of a missing Madison Heights woman.

The disappearance Sept. 20 of Catherine Nativite Hoskinson, 48, of Madison Heights, led to a weeklong search at a Huron County beach where she’d originally planned to kayak and where her possessions were found on the shoreline. Her body was found in the water at Saginaw Bay at 5:40 p.m. Sept. 26.

The body was transported to Au Gres in Arenac County, where forensic examiners used dental records to identify the body as Hoskinson's at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 28, confirming the cause of death to be drowning.

“The body was distorted and obviously waterlogged," said Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson. “When the body was examined in Arenac County, they were looking for c-section marks that could not be found.

“That’s where it was determined that they were going to need to do an autopsy as well as getting dental records,” Hanson continued. “The forensic pathologist was able to find the c-section marks, which are apparently done differently in France than in America, as this gal had dual citizenship in France and the United States. The dental records really sealed the deal.”

The Huron County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies had been scouring Port Crescent State Park, located 25 miles east of Saginaw Bay in Hume Township, employing boat and foot patrols, dive teams, helicopter searches and cadaver dogs to find the woman authorities say left letters suggesting she’d been distraught over a failed relationship and possibly contemplating suicide.

According to Hanson, Hoskinson was last seen around 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20. Her last communication was a 4:30 p.m. text message to her daughter saying she’d been unable to find a kayak to rent and was going to swim instead.

The next morning at 10 a.m., a local woman was walking the three-mile stretch of popular summer beachfront when she chanced upon Hoskinson’s personal belongings on the eastern end of the day-use swimming area.

The items — her clothing, cell phone, driver’s license and keys to a black 2008 Pontiac Grand Am parked in a lot nearby — were soaked from morning rainstorms, obscuring any footprints but suggesting Hoskinson had been there Sept. 20.

The woman notified park management. At 1 p.m. that day, Park Manager Betsy Kish alerted Huron Central Dispatch.

Deputies arrived on scene and began to investigate, using Hoskinson’s cell phone to contact her family, learning she’d been depressed recently and had attempted suicide by overdosing in the past.

What followed was a search that lasted all week.

For the rest of the day Sept. 21, sheriff’s deputies searched the waters by patrol boat while park personnel assisted on foot, suspending the search at dark. The U.S. Coast Guard lent aid in the form of a helicopter and another boat, though on Sept. 22 the Coast Guard withdrew, saying they assist only in matters they deem to have a chance of preserving life.

The search continued by foot, ATV and boat Sept. 22, this time supplemented by a state police dog-handler and cadaver dog, conservation officers, family and friends, and a helicopter from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

A couple came forward saying they’d been at the beach around sunset Sept. 20 and had seen both Hoskinson’s belongings and her car, yet they hadn’t seen anybody nearby.

On Sept. 23, a dive unit searched underwater until mid-afternoon, finding nothing. At 5 p.m., Hanson and a fellow deputy took two of the department’s patrol boats and accompanied a dog handler on a search of the water. The cadaver dog found a point of interest, but nothing related to Hoskinson.

Of greater relevance Sept. 23 was the discovery of two letters Hoskinson appears to have authored the morning of the day she disappeared.

“There was a note that was written on the missing individual’s desk that had instructions on how to get into an e-mail account, and that’s where the stuff was drafted, in the form of an e-mail,” Hanson said.

He noted the “stuff” in question was not one but two letters, one advising the family on how to disperse insurance, the other to an ex she’d broken up with two years prior.

Madison Heights resident Natasha Desiree Hoskinson, 22, the missing woman’s daughter, turned the instructions over to her aunt, who saw the letters and withheld them a couple days before coming forward, Hanson said.

Hanson, who in 25 years has seen two dozen missing person cases, characterized the letters as “a final farewell” that put him “at the 99.9 percent certain belief of suicide,” though at the time he acknowledged abduction or running away as possibilities.

As of the morning of Sept. 24, the Huron County Sheriff’s Department had scaled back search operations to hour-long foot and boat patrols in the mornings and evenings.

Neither Arenac County nor Huron County officials knew of any missing persons on Lake Huron other than Hoskinson. As the search continued, the family held out hope.

Describing her mother as a fun-loving, artistically talented person who loved traveling, music and shopping for gifts to surprise and delight others, Natasha said “I never thought I’d be in this position, because you hear about people missing or bad things happening in the world, but you never think you’re going to be the one that’s put in that position. …I always thought my mom would be around to see me get married, or see my grandchildren, or see me become somebody.

“I think the saddest thing I’ve realized out of this it took my mom missing to realize that sometimes we take the people we love for granted. I think we all do, whether we realize it or not.”

Cadaver dogs do not find Haleigh Cummings

Investigators using cadaver-sensing dogs to check a tip describing the burial site for Putnam County’s missing Haleigh Cummings did not find her there.

The site near the Satsuma doublewide mobile home where the kindergartner disappeared in February had been checked before, said Capt. Dick Schauland of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. He said the search was retraced last week because the tip provided directions, distances and angles to turn.

“This tip was kind of specific,” he said.

Schauland said a woman who dropped the tip off at the St. Augustine Record Wednesday later told detectives she was passing it on from a retired FBI informant who is in his early 80s. He said she did not name the man.

“Hopefully she will get him to talk to us,” Schauland said. The woman’s name has not been released.

Investigators want to know where the man got his information.

Detectives have investigated more than 4,000 leads in the case.

Cadaver dogs had already checked the spot that was investigated again last week.

Haleigh was 5 years old when she disappeared from the residence where she and her younger brother lived with her father, Ronald Cummings, and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Misty Croslin, who has since married Cummings.

She called 911 early Feb. 10 to say she woke and found Haleigh missing.

Speculation about possible places where Haleigh may be found intensified this month with the draining of an isolated pond south of Palatka. No evidence was found in several days of searching the L-shaped pond in the Mondex area, investigators said.

Since the pond search, two jailhouse letters surfaced written by a friend of Misty Cummings saying police questioned her about another acquaintance describing a party where Haleigh ingested drugs and died and was taken to a pond.

Schauland said the search of the pond was not the result of the letters by Kristina “Naynay” Prevatt, who denied being at any such party.

Schauland said interviews with Prevatt were prompted by leads they were already following.

The last word: Inside a dog’s world

GO LOOK AT a dog. Go on, look—maybe at one lying near you right now, curled around his folded legs on a dog bed, or sprawled on his side on the tile floor, paws flitting through the pasture of a dream. Take a good look—and now forget everything you know about dogs. Because forgetting what we think we know is the best way to begin understanding dogs.

The first things to forget are anthropomorphisms. We see, talk about, and imagine dogs’ behavior from a human-biased perspective. Of course, we’ll say, dogs love and desire; of course they dream and think; they also know and understand us, feel bored, get jealous, and get depressed. What could be a more natural explanation of a dog staring dolefully at you as you leave the house for the day than that he is depressed that you’re going?

The answer is an explanation based in what dogs actually have the capacity to feel, know, and understand.

If we want to understand the life of any animal, we need to know what things are meaningful to it, beginning with what it can perceive—what it can see, hear, smell, or otherwise sense. Second, we need to consider how the animal acts on the world.

WE HUMANS TEND not to spend a lot of time thinking about smelling, for instance. Smells are minor blips in our sensory day compared to the reams of visual information that we take in. The room I’m in right now is a phantasmagoric mix of colors and surfaces and densities, of shadows and lights. Oh, and if I really call my attention to it, I can smell the coffee on the table next to me. But as humans see the world, a dog smells it. The dogs’ universe is a stratum of complex odors.

Consider too that dogs don’t act on the world by handling objects or by eyeballing them. Instead, they bravely stride right up to a new unknown object, stretch their magnificent snouts within millimeters of it, and take a nice deep sniff. That dog nose, in most breeds, is anything but subtle. The snout holding the nose projects forth to examine a new person seconds before the dog himself arrives on the scene. And the sniffer is not just an ornament atop the muzzle; it is the leading, moist headliner. What its prominence suggests, and what all science confirms, is that the dog is a creature of the nose.

The sniff is the great medium for getting smelly objects to the dog, the tramway on which chemical odors speed up to the waiting receptor cells lining the caverns of the dog’s nose. Human noses have about 6 million of these receptor sites; beagle noses have more than 300 million. The difference in the smell experience is exponential. Next to a beagle, we are downright anosmic, smelling nothing. We might notice if our coffee’s been sweetened with a teaspoon of sugar; a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar diluted in a million gallons of water.

What’s this like? Imagine if each detail of our visual world were matched by a corresponding smell. Each petal on a rose may be distinct, having been visited by insects leaving pollen footprints from faraway flowers. What is to us just a single stem actually holds a record of who held it, and when. A burst of chemicals marks where a leaf was torn. Imagine smelling every minute visual detail. That might be the experience of a rose to a dog.

And dogs put their remarkable sense of smell to great use socially. While we humans leave our scents behind inadvertently, dogs are profligate with their scents. It is as though dogs, realizing how much can be learned from odor, are determined to use this to their advantage. Dogs—like all other canids—leave urine conspicuously splashed on all manner of object. Urine marking, as this method of communication is called, conveys a message. Every dog owner is familiar with the raised-leg marking of fire hydrants, lampposts, trees, bushes. Most marked spots are high or prominent: better to be seen, and better for the odor to be smelled.

From observations of the behavior of sniffing dogs, it appears that the chemicals in the urine give information about, for females, sexual readiness, and for males, their social confidence. The prevailing myth is that the message is “this is mine,” that dogs urinate to “mark territory.” But research has failed to bear this out as the exclusive, or even predominant, use of urine marking. Instead, marking seems to leave information about who the urinator is, how often he walks by this spot, his recent victories, and his interest in mating. In this way, the invisible pile of scents on the hydrant becomes a community bulletin board, with old, deteriorating announcements and requests peeking out from underneath more recent posts.

SPENDING AN AFTERNOON at home at the height of a dog can generate many surprises. But the objects you would see when crawling around on all fours are not, in some sense, the same objects a dog sees. A dog looking around a room does not think he is surrounded by human things; he sees—and smells—dog things.

What we may think an object is for, or what it makes us think of, may or may not match the dog’s idea of the object’s function or meaning. Objects are defined by how you can act upon them: what the German biologist Jakob von Uexküll called their “functional tone.” A dog may be indifferent to chairs, but if trained to jump on one, he learns that the chair has a sitting tone: It can be sat upon. But other things that we may identify as chair-like are not so seen by dogs: stools, tables, arms of couches. Stools and tables are in some other category of objects: obstacles, perhaps, in their path toward the eating tone of the kitchen. A ball, a pen, a teddy bear, and a shoe are in some ways equivalent: All are objects that one can get one’s mouth around.

Here we begin to see how the dog and human overlap in their worldviews, and how we differ. A good many objects in the world have an eating tone to the dog—probably many more than we see as such. Feces just aren’t menu items for us; dogs disagree. Dogs may have tones that we don’t have at all—rolling tones, say: things that one might merrily roll in. And plenty of objects that have very specific meanings to us—forks, knives, hammers, pushpins, fans, clocks—have little or no meaning to dogs. To a dog, a hammer doesn’t exist. A dog doesn’t act with or on a hammer, so it has no significance to a dog. At least, not until it overlaps with some other, meaningful object: It is wielded by a loved person; it is urinated on by the cute dog down the street.

I FREQUENTLY HEAR dog owners verify their dogs’ love of them through the kisses delivered upon them when they return home. These “kisses” are licks: slobbery licks to the face; focused, exhaustive licking of the hand; solemn tongue-polishing of a limb. I confess that I treat the licks that my dog Pump bestows on me as signs of affection. “Affection” and “love” are not just the recent constructs of a society that treats pets as little people, to be shod in shoes in bad weather, dressed up for Halloween, and indulged with spa days. Before there was any such thing as doggy day care, Charles Darwin himself wrote of receiving lick-kisses from his dogs. He was certain of their meaning: Dogs have, he wrote, a “striking way of exhibiting their affection, namely, by licking the hands or faces of their masters.” Was Darwin right? The kisses feel affectionate to me, but are they gestures of affection to the dog?

First, the bad news: Researchers of wild canids—wolves, coyotes, foxes, and other wild dogs—report that puppies lick the face and muzzle of their mother when she returns from a hunt to her den, in order to get her to regurgitate for them. Licking around the mouth seems to be the cue that stimulates her to vomit up some nicely partially digested meat. How disappointed Pump must be that not a single time have I regurgitated half-eaten rabbit flesh for her.

Furthermore, our mouths taste great to dogs. Like wolves and humans, dogs have taste receptors for salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and even umami, the earthy, mushroomy-seaweedy flavor captured in the flavor-heightening monosodium glutamate. Eventually I realized that Pump’s licks to my face often correlated with my face having just overseen the ingestion of a good amount of food.

Now the good news: As a result of this functional use of mouth licking—“kisses” to you and me—the behavior has become a ritualized greeting. In other words, it no longer serves only the function of asking for food; now it is used to say hello. Dogs and wolves muzzle-lick simply to welcome another dog back home, and to get an olfactory report of where the homecomer has been or what he has done. Familiar dogs may exchange licks when meeting at their ends of their respective leashes on the street. It may serve as a way to confirm, through smell, that this dog storming toward them is who they think he is. Since these “greeting licks” are often accompanied by wagging tails, mouths opened playfully, and general excitement, it is not a stretch to say that the licks are a way to express happiness that you have returned.

WHAT ABOUT A dog’s power of visual and mental perception? Look a dog in the eyes and you get the definite feeling that he is looking back. Dogs return our gaze. They are looking at us in the same way that we look at them. Naturally we wonder, is the dog thinking about us the way we are thinking about the dog?

In fact, we are known by our dogs probably far better than we know them. They are the consummate eavesdroppers and Peeping Toms: Let into the privacy of our rooms, they quietly spy on our every move. They know about our comings and goings. They know whom we sleep with, what we eat. We share our homes with uncounted numbers of mice, millipedes, and mites—none bothers to look our way. Dogs, by contrast, watch us from across the room, from the window, and out of the corners of their eyes. Their sight is used to see what we attend to. In some ways, this is similar to us, but in other ways it surpasses human capacity.

Dogs are anthropologists among us. They are students of our behavior. And what makes them especially good anthropologists is that they never tire of attending to minute changes in our expressions, our moods, our outlooks. Unlike us, they don’t become inured to people.

From Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. Copyright © 2009 by Alexandra Horowitz. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Meet the UKBAs top four legged agent

In the ongoing struggle to patrol Britain’s borders, the UK Border Agency has revealed its most potent weapon against illegal immigration, one whose name causes panic in Calais and Dover; meet Lola, the chocolate coloured sniffer dog.

Lola is a 3-year-old shorthaired German pointer who has recently been awarded the UKBA’s top dog honour. Her job is to patrol the border crossings of Calais and Dover to sniff out people hidden inside lorries. Concealing humans in trucks has long been the easiest way to move across road borders but the latest last line of defense has proven to be the best counter measure, with Lola fast growing a reputation around squatters camps and migrant communities for her dream-shattering sense of smell.

So prized is Lola’s ability that the UKBA were wary of making her name public, or even advising where she eats and sleeps for fears that smuggling gangs would offer a reward for her disposal. People trafficking outfits have every reason to be worried; Lola’s record so far is 24 people in one week who were all embedded into lorries in some way.

Lola is already something of a celebrity in Calais with one man claiming that he can normally navigate the checkpoints on the French side but immediately upon reaching the English point the barking begins.

Lola is part of a team of one dozen canine law enforcers who cover the northern coastline of France at all times. The dogs are tasked with locating migrants who can be stowed away in all manner of containers including fridges, grain tanks, rubbish bins and foodstuffs.

Lola’s victims, mostly Afghans, are usually turned over to French officials who have expressed a reluctance to send them home. Lola’s work seems to be ongoing.

Sniffer dog helps police find drugs in Barnstaple flat

A QUANTITY of what are believed to be both class A and B drugs were seized during a police raid in Barnstaple.

Officers from the Barnstaple neighbourhood team executed two search warrants under the misuse of drugs act on Wednesday, September 23.

They were assisted by officers from the force's tactical aid group and members of PACT (Police and Communities Together Team).

Police used enforcement equipment to get into flats in Sunflower Road.

A police drugs detection dog helped officers to locate the drugs within one of the flats.

A 31-year-old local woman was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of controlled substances.

She was interviewed and released on police bail until October 9 2009.

PC Lucy Robinson of the Barnstaple town centre team said, "The operation is part of our ongoing commitment to take direct and firm action against those who deal drugs within our town."

Woman stabbed while walking dog

woman has been attacked by a knifeman in a Devon village.

Police said she was stabbed several times in the back by a man while out walking her dog in Bowden Hill, Yealmpton, earlier.

A passer-by tried to help the victim, aged in her late 40s, but the knifeman punched him in the face and fled.

The woman was taken to hospital where she is in a comfortable condition. A man was later arrested in the village on suspicion of attempted murder.

'Rare crime'

Thirty four officers, the force helicopter and sniffer dogs were used in a search.

Insp Phil Chivers told BBC News: "It's a very unusual and rare crime for this area.

"I can't remember anything like it before."

Yealmpton, about five miles east of Plymouth, has a population of about 3,000 who are mainly commuters and retired people.

Parish council chairman Richard Yonge said: "I was very surprised when I heard about the attack.

"It's the sort of thing you don't expect to happen anywhere, let alone Yealmpton.

"There's a great community spirit and any violence is very rare."

Family continues search for missing hunter

Nearly three weeks into their search, the family of 61-year-old Mel Nadel, who disappeared in the Pecos Wilderness, is still holding out hope he'll be found alive.

Crews didn't find any clues on Saturday in their search for Nadel. His family says there hasn't been any new information in weeks, leaving them filled with troubling questions that nobody has the answer to.

"Whatever happened to my husband, we need to find out," Nadel's wife Edna said Saturday.

After searchers spent another full day scouring the Pecos, his family is growing even more uneasy.

"People don't just disappear," Edna said. "They don't just like- it's like a bubble. They just poof- and they're gone."

Nadel went missing earlier this month from a hunting camp near Elk Mountain. Dogs followed his scent about 150 yards-- until it suddenly cut off.

"I said, how you going to explain it to me, and they cannot explain it to me, so I don't have any clues," Edna said.

His family has been on a roller coaster of emotions-- trying to go about daily life.

They hope to re-open his Santa Fe pilates studio next week, but don't have any answers to the questions coming from his clients.

Edna said, "A lot of ifs, a lot of why, a lot of question, there's no answer, there's no answer. Nobody can answer it for me."

As time goes on, Mel's family is beginning to fear the worst.

His daughter Kristen said, "I feel like this is criminal. I know, they keep saying it's not, they don't have evidence of anything, but I honestly don't think he just got lost, 'cause we would have found him by now."

Despite the time that has past, his family still clings to the hopes of seeing him again.

Whatever it is, I can accept it, just to see him again, and say goodbye properly, if it's a goodbye," his wife said. "If he's okay, it's a miracle. We're still hoping for that, too."

Searchers are headed back into the Pecos again early Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the Nadel family has set up a fund at Wells Fargo under his name to help with the search.

Salina arson dog sniffs through evidence

SALINA — Early in her training, Ashes, the new arson dog at the Salina Fire Department, was sniffing out smoldering embers in the burn room of the department's downtown training tower.

After locating a suspicious scent in the embers, the black Labrador sat as she had been trained, waiting for fire prevention officer Troy Long to give her further instructions.

As Long surveyed the scene, he could hear Ashes whimper. Long instructed her to point out the exact location of the suspicious material. Ashes stood and put her nose in the spot. Satisfied, Long ordered her to sit again, and once again she whimpered.

Long discovered Ashes had been sitting directly on a hot ember that had become separated from the pile.

"She would have sat there for five minutes if she had to," Long said.

It was then Long knew Ashes would be a dedicated arson dog.

Earlier this year, the 10-month-old Lab was purchased from a trainer at Rivera Police Canines, a Junction City firm that trains dogs for police, sheriff and fire departments. The Salina Fire Department purchased Ashes to sniff out suspicious fire scenes for possible arson origin.

Long said certain breeds of dogs, such as Labradors, have the kind of drive and energy that makes them effective at sniffing out evidence.

"You're looking for the kind of dog that if you roll a ball, he's knocking everyone over to get it," he said. "He's a very even-tempered dog with a desire to please and a very good work ethic. That's what you want in a working dog."

Ashes began training at 11 weeks old and already has 120 hours of training time recorded, Long said.

Every two weeks, Long and Ashes travel to Junction City to show the professional trainer at Rivera what arson training exercises they have been working on and to receive instructions for the next two weeks.

"It's something you work on continually," he said.

In October, Ashes will receive certification from the Heart of America Police Dog Association.

Ashes' ability to detect multiple odors makes her a more effective arson-detecting tool than a hydrocarbon detector, a mechanical device used at fire scenes for more than 20 years.

"It was a mechanical sniffer that smelled hydrocarbons," Long said. "Ashes can differentiate between different hydrocarbons. She can run over an area and discriminate odors."

The dog is also being trained in evidence location, Long said.

"Arson is hard to prove, so the more evidence you have, the easier it is to prove," he said. "If a lighter is used to set a car on fire, it might possibly have fingerprints, so I can let her go and look for that."

Ashes has already been used during one investigation of a suspicious fire in Salina, where she made two positive indications of arson activity, Long said.

"It's nice to see eight months of training come together," he said.

Ashes lives at Long's home and goes to work with him each day. Long said Ashes gets along well with his other dog, another black Labrador.

"They're like a couple of teenagers," he said. "My 5-year-old and her also have become best friends. They'll fall asleep on the floor with his arm around her."

At the downtown station, Ashes has become a favorite of the firefighters. Salina Fire Chief Larry Mullikin called her a tremendous asset.

"She'll cut the time down on investigations, so investigators can take samples in the right locations," he said. "She brings a lot of life to the office. She's a working dog and an office friend."

In addition to her regular duties, Ashes will be used as an educational tool. Plans are to take the dog into elementary and high schools to teach kids about fire safety, Mullikin said.

Scent lineups' may be failing smell test

Dogs have occupied a special place in law enforcement for decades thanks to their heightened sense of smell, and their role has only grown in recent years because of use in explosives detection and the newly popular practice of “scent lineups.”

But forgive Curvis Bickham if he remains less than impressed. Eight months in jail will harden your opinion about a lot of things.

Bickham does not know for sure whether the dogs used to connect him to a triple murder in southeast Houston last year made a mistake, produced a false “hit” because their handler encouraged them or responded correctly to scent that was deliberately placed on items from the murder scene. All he knows is that he was accused of capital murder, a crime that could have cost him his life.

“I lost my home, I lost my business, I lost my reputation,” Bickham said. “I have three little boys depending on me — ages 6, 8 and 9 — and they charge me with the most heinous thing they can charge a man with.”

Bickham, 49, gets emotional in the retelling of the October 2008 arrest and the painful months that followed before charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

The evidence against Bickham may have been slight, little more than a positive reaction from Keith Pikett's bloodhound. But it was enough to charge him.

Now Bickham has added his voice to the growing chorus of critics who call Pikett a fraud and the use of so-called scent lineups “voodoo science.”

“This has got to stop,” Bickham said.

The Innocence Project of Texas agrees. A group that works on behalf of the wrongly accused, the project issued a scathing report last week on both Pikett and the practice of getting courtroom evidence from scent lineups, in which a specially trained dog matches a suspect's scent to items from a crime scene.
Useful in investigations

The group does not suggest that dogs not be used by police, conceding they can be a useful investigative tool. It's the next step that bothers them — the eagerness of police to use scent results as the basis of a criminal charge and prosecutors to accept them as evidence. It has called on the state Attorney General's Office to investigate other cases in which Pikett's dogs were crucial to getting a conviction.

“It is junk science that is being used to convict and charge people,” said Jeff Blackburn, the group's chief counsel.

The Innocence Project's report cited not only Bickham's case but several others who turned out to be wrongly accused based on scent matches from Pikett's dogs. Calvin Miller was charged with rape and robbery in Yoakum County before DNA evidence cleared him. Michael Buchanek was named a prime suspect in a Victoria murder based on a Pikett scent lineup, before another man confessed and pleaded guilty.

Miller is suing Pikett, a deputy with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Department. Bickham is considering doing the same.

Pikett declined an interview request based on the advice of his attorney, Randall Morse, who did not return callsfrom the Chronicle.

Other dog trainers have attracted scrutiny. In Florida, John Preston occupied a niche similar to Pikett's in the 1980s. Three men he helped imprison have since been released after other evidence showed the convictions were wrong.

Pikett got into police dog work by accident in the 1990s, when his pet bloodhound Samantha proved exceptional at tracking contests in dog shows, he told the Chronicle in a 2004 interview. In 1998, he became a Fort Bend deputy, and he and his dogs have become celebrities of sorts because of their success in scent detection and work in high-profile cases.

As publicity spread about Pikett's work, more and more police agencies and prosecutors began to use him. He has said he has no idea of how many cases his dogs have been involved in, but it numbers in the thousands. He also has testified that his dogs have almost never been wrong. One of them, “Clue,” erred once in 1,659, he has testified, while “James Bond” made one mistake in 2,266 tries.

Well-known police dog trainer Bob Eden, who has written two books on the subject and helped develop minimum training standards, calls such numbers incredible. Literally. Although dogs can perform with amazing consistency, Eden said, handlers are all but certain to make blunders and inadvertently tip the dog to the desired match, or to an incorrect match if the handler has no knowledge of the correct one.
Lack of records troubling

Of equal concern, Eden said, is the absence of carefully recorded training records to demonstrate the dog's proficiency and error rate. Pikett has acknowledged that he does not keep such records.

“Prosecutors should never put him on the stand without training records,” Eden said. “Everything that is done with that dog should have a training record.”

Three experts hired by the Innocence Project criticized Pikett's work. The former head of police dog training in the United Kingdom, Bob Coote, reviewed a video of one of Pikett's scent lineups and was appalled.

“This is the most primitive evidential police procedure I have ever witnessed,” Coote stated. “If it was not for the fact that this is a serious matter, I could have been watching a comedy.”

Pikett has plenty of supporters. Many prosecutors swear by him. In a lengthy article on the murders of Patricia and Kent Whitaker for The Prosecutor, a publication of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Fort Bend prosecutor Jeff Strange told how Pikett's dogs were able to link evidence from the Whitaker home to the killers.
‘Pervasive problem'

The Whitaker case, however, contained a substantial amount of evidence against Bart Whitaker and the others who took part. What concerns Blackburn are cases that have little additional evidence, meaning the dog-scent results could be key to conviction. Texas, like most states, allows dog scent results into evidence despite an absence of scientific norms and standards.

“In some counties, police are abandoning normal police work in favor of Pikett and his dogs,” Blackburn said. “We believe it is becoming … a widespread and pervasive problem.”

Former Harris County prosecutor Vic Wisner, an assistant district attorney for more than 24 years, came to view Pikett's work skeptically while working on a case involving a series of pharmacy burglaries. The dogs connected items from the break-ins to the scent of a suspect provided by two detectives, who subsequently filed felony charges. A task force working on the same case, however, had a different suspect, who finally was apprehended during a burglary.

Wisner dismissed the charges against the uninvolved suspect and sent an e-mail to fellow prosecutors to make them aware of what happened in the event any of their cases involved Pikett's dogs. His one-word summation of the scent evidence: “ludicrous.”

mike.tolson@chron.com

Sniffer dog helps police find drugs in Barnstaple flat

A QUANTITY of what are believed to be both class A and B drugs were seized during a police raid in Barnstaple.

Officers from the Barnstaple neighbourhood team executed two search warrants under the misuse of drugs act on Wednesday, September 23.

They were assisted by officers from the force's tactical aid group and members of PACT (Police and Communities Together Team).

Police used enforcement equipment to get into flats in Sunflower Road.

A police drugs detection dog helped officers to locate the drugs within one of the flats.

A 31-year-old local woman was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of controlled substances.

She was interviewed and released on police bail until October 9 2009.

PC Lucy Robinson of the Barnstaple town centre team said, "The operation is part of our ongoing commitment to take direct and firm action against those who deal drugs within our town."

Q&A on Suffolk's drug-sniffing dogs

Smithtown school officials have been talking to the Suffolk County Police Department about letting its canine unit train drug-sniffing dogs at the district's two high schools. All of Suffolk's police dogs are trained as patrol dogs to find living humans. Dogs then have specialties in bombs/ guns, drugs or cadaver detection.

How do police know if a dog has found drugs?

It will either scratch or bite in the area of the drug, said Suffolk Police Lt. Brian Coltellino.

How long would the residual smell of drugs remain in a locker such that a dog could detect it?

It depends on the quantity of the drug, how long it was in the locker, and what it was stored in. "If it's in a locker overnight, the smell could still last 10 to 12 hours," said James Greco, consultant for Long Island K-9 Service. "If something is in the locker all school day and taken out, that could quite possibly . . . last 12 hours or more - even until the following day."

Andy Hanellin, owner of Dogs by Andy K-9 Services, said if a drug were in a plastic bag in a locker just once, the smell would likely last only 5 to 15 minutes after removal.

Are there any legal questions involved in police dogs finding drugs on school premises during training exercises?

No, according to some legal experts.

"Randomly finding something that was not intentionally being searched for doesn't implicate any search and seizure issues," said Eric Freedman, a constitutional law professor at Hofstra Law School.
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But Leon Friedman, also a constitutional law professor at Hofstra, said dogs sniffing is inherently a search. "If it's conducted by the police, it has to comply with the Fourth Amendment," he said. "The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause before you can actually do the search."
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Police say porn, cuffs, body bag found in accused child kidnapper's home

Large quantities of pornography, as well as sex paraphernalia, handcuffs and a body bag were found at the Jersey City home of a man charged with kidnapping and trying to take the pants off a 12-year-old girl on Saturday.

The items, particularly the body bag, prompted police on Sunday to search the Colgate Street home of Luigi Pandolfo, 33, with cadaver dogs, but no bodies were found.

The body bag found in Pandolfo's home was likely related to a fetish, authorities said.
Pandolfo was arrested Saturday after the 12-year-old girl told police he grabbed her off the street and held her captive for two hours. The girl said she escaped by slipping out of handcuffs and climbing down a fire escape, officials said.
Pandolfo made his first appearance on the charges this afternoon in Central Judicial Processing Court in Jersey City via video link from Hudson County jail on Kearny. Later in the day his bail was set at $500,000 cash or bond by Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale.


"You are charged with committing the act of sexual contact upon on a minor ... for the purpose of sexually arousing and sexually gratifying yourself, or to humiliate or degrade the victim at the time the victim was 12 years of age," CJP Judge Richard Nieto read from the complaint.
The defendant seemed calm through most of the court appearance, but on a couple of occasions he clasped his head with both hands as if overwhelmed.


Maria Pandolfo, 68, the defendant's mother, wept when her son appeared on the TV monitor.
Maria Pandolfo, who speaks Italian almost exclusively and still wears black after her husband's death three years ago, stressed to reporters her son "is a good boy."
The victim said that at 7:30 p.m. she was riding her bike when Pandolfo grabbed her as she passed his home, reports said. She said he took her into a second-floor room he shares with his mother, locked the door and handcuffed her. But his mother kept banging on the door and yelling to him, police said.


Pandolfo then took the girl to an unoccupied house directly behind his home and returned to his residence, police said.
Hearing the mother and son arguing, the girl slipped out of the handcuffs and made it to safety by climbing down the fire escape, police said. She was later treated at the Jersey City Medical Center for bruises on both wrists consistent with having been handcuffed, police said.


Maria Pandolfo said police had the story wrong.
She said today her son was trying to give away three cats and the girl expressed an interest and went into the house to see which one she liked best. She said the girl was in the house only five minutes before leaving.


The girl then returned with her mother saying she had been held for two hours, Maria Pandolfo said in Italian.
The mother said her son has never been in trouble and prosecutors confirmed he has no criminal history.

Search for Burns called off

LAVALETTE -- The search for the remains of Marshall University student Samantha Burns near a ravine in Lavalette was called off on Thursday with still few answers as to her whereabouts.

The search for Burns' body near a ravine next to railroad tracks was called off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Monica Caison, founder of Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons.

"I feel confident as well as the Burns' family feels confident that she's not there," Caison said.

Caison said various teams as well as about 20 cadaver dogs combed the area for seven days.

"We have completed the task of finding the ravine and excavating the entire ravine," she said. "That's all we can do."

The 19-year-old West Hamlin native was last seen alive in 2002 at the Huntington Mall.

The CUE team became involved in the search in January 2009 when Caison received a package from death row inmate Chadrick Fulks, who said he wanted to help bring Burns and another missing woman home.

Caison, who helped to find another of Fulks' victims earlier this year, has said she's not so sure the condemned Fulks really wants anyone to find Burns. She has said she's found missing people for more than 15 years easier than the search for Burns.

Caison said some crew members would stay behind to sift through the dirt again as the hole was filled on Friday.

Fulks and co-defendant Brandon Basham await execution after being convicted of killing Burns and another woman, Alice Donovan, a 44-year-old from South Carolina, during a 17-day crime spree that started after they escaped from a Kentucky jail in November 2002.

Fulks and Basham were convicted of carjackings that led to the death of both victims. They received the death penalty in Donovan's case.

When last seen at the Huntington Mall, Burns had made a payment on her J.C. Penney credit card. Her abductors used her ATM card at various locations. Police found Burns' burned-out Chevrolet Cavalier near Haney's Branch Road in rural Wayne County.

Mystery: Hiker finds skull, leading to body near Madras

No idea' yet if foul play involved; autopsy performed in Portland

By Kelsey Watts, KTVZ.COM

A weekend hiker walking a dog found a skull in the woods east of Madras, leading Jefferson County sheriff's deputies to search for, then find an as-yet unidentified body, officials said Thursday.

The grisly discovery prompted sheriff's deputies to bring out cadaver dogs, and after a lengthy search, investigators found an otherwise intact human body in the grassland on private property, a few miles southeast of town.

The remains, likely on scene for "a few months," were sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office, where an autopsy was conducted Wednesday, said sheriff's Sgt. Bryan Skidgel. The results won't be available for several days, he added.

The sheriff's office said the call came in around 12:30 p.m. Sunday about a human skull.

Asked if foul play was suspected, the sergeant said that at this point, they have "no idea." He said the body apparently had been at the scene for "a few months," and that clothing was found, but no items to help identify the person.

At this point, there's no information about the gender or age of the person found, said Sgt. Marc Heckathorn. It's hoped the autopsy results will not only determine the cause and manner of death, but help officials identify the person.

"Until we get all the findings back, we're kind of at a stall right now, just waiting for the rest of the report from the autopsy to become processed and available even for us to have," Heckathorn said.

People in Madras are very curious about what actually happened outside their city.

"It's a little spooky, that's for sure," said resident Casey Benningfield. "I think that's pretty crazy. There's been a lot of - with the economy going down, crime has come up. So I mean, it makes you worry it could be something malicious or foul play."

There are no missing persons cases in Jefferson County, but Madras police say they do have one such case, but won't reveal more details. Until the remains are identified, there's no way to know if they are related.

"There was a stabbing a couple weeks or a month ago," Benningfield said. "And then a shooting even a couple months before that. So that's why it makes you think, 'Oh gosh,' you know?"

But for now, there are more questions than answers, as everyone, including police, waits to see who's body was found, and if any crime was involved.

Benningfield called it "kind of sad, actually, that he doesn't have a family or someone that would notice to miss him."

Heckathorn said, "Even though the scene may be old, it should still provide lots of clues as to how this person passed away."

Deputies say that while they have no idea if foul play was involved, they have to investigate every possible scenario. Anyone with information that could help is asked to call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at (541) 475-6520.
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Man claims he was falsely accused because of dog

HOUSTON—Imagine spending nine months in the Harris County Jail for a crime you didn’t commit, all the while knowing that what put you there wasn’t testimony or evidence presented by a human, but by a dog. Ronald Curtis says that’s exactly what happened to him.

“It was at a point in my life when I was trying to get my life together, and then I get arrested for something I didn’t do,” Curtis said.

Curtis’s rap sheet dates back to the mid-80s and includes car theft, as well as drug convictions. But Curtis said that he was arrested for a string of burglaries he didn’t commit after he agreed to submit to a dog scent lineup.

“So two weeks later, after he took the scent, they put an arrest warrant out for me based on the fact that the dog supposedly found my scent in these buildings,” said Curtis.

He said that the crimes took place in June 2007, but he wasn’t arrested until August of that year.

“The scents were not collected at the time of the crime,” Curtis said. “He went back to the crime scene over 100 days later and collected these things.”

He, according to Curtis, was Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Pikett.

Pikett uses his own dogs to match smells from evidence to swabs of skin cell samples taken from suspects. It is something that the Innocence Project of Texas recently called junk science.

“I hate to even call it science because what’s being practiced right now in Texas is just junk,” said Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project.

Pikett, who already has two lawsuits pending, has been advised not to talk to the media.

As for Curtis, the charges against him were eventually dismissed, and he attributes his release to surveillance photos from the crime scene. Whether he will become the third person to sue has yet to be determined.

Walsall town centre crime down

CRIME rates in Walsall town centre have fallen by more than 20 per cent according to a partnership formed to tackle problems in the area.

The 'Be Safe' initiative was set up by West Midlands Police to help reduce the amount of crimes committed in Walsall's night time economy.

The campaign, which included an increased police presence on foot and with sniffer dogs, ran from 2008 to 2009 and as a result there were a total of 207 fewer victims of crime in the town centre.

The figures are revealed in the borough's Community Safety Plan which highlights achievements in the last 12 months and also sets out targets for the next three years.

Crime has fallen year on year since 2005 with total recorded crime falling by a further 12 per cent in 2008/9, which equates to 3,138 fewer offences, the plan reveals.

Notable achievements in the report include:

■ Small fires started maliciously down 21.3 per cent

■ Vehicle damage down 18.4 per cent

■ Criminal damage falling by 13.3 per cent

■ Deliberate property fires down 3.6 per cent.

Councillor Garry Perry, cabinet member for safer stronger communities at Walsall Council, said: "The three-year Community Safety Plan which runs from 2008 to 2011 has been revised to reflect the results achieved in 2008/9 and the priorities for next year. The plan reveals the substantial progress Safer Walsall Partnership has made in reducing crime in the borough.

"However, we are aware there is still a lot more work to be done and priorities are being addressed in the next phase of the Community Safety Plan."

Safer Walsall Partnership's CCTV operators dealt with more than 2,600 incidents between April 2008 and March 2009 – generating 740 arrests.

The partnership also funded an operation to tackle anti-social behaviour hotspots in the borough and the anti-social behaviour unit worked with partner agencies to deal with more than 600 reported cases in 2008/9.

A successful bid was also made for £13,000 from the Home Office to tackle dangerous drinking in Walsall.

● Do you believe Walsall town centre is getting safer? Send us your views to walsall.editorial@cintamworth.co.uk

Tight security ahead of ICC opening match

The ground is being prepared at SuperSport Park Centurion where the Proteas will go head to head with Sri Lanka in the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Traffic to the venue is flowing smoothly but it was expected to get congested closer to the start time.

Security was tight as fans slowly make their way to the venue on foot.

Hundreds of police and security personnel are conducting various security checks on areas around the stadium.

They are searching all cars entering the statement using sniffer dogs and fans entering the venue need to go through metal detectors.

The bomb squad is also present.

Is UN security in the wrong place?

It’s not surprising security is tight at the UN during the general assembly. We all expect to have to stand in long queues to pass through metal detectors at any gathering where Barack Obama is present, especially when he is joined by Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. No wonder there are snipers on top of the nearby hotels and sniffer dogs are roaming the streets.

But now it seems all the security is in the wrong place. The latest US terror alert issued yesterday is not warning of a possible attack against any of the world leaders visiting here or the United Nations itself. The most dangerous places in the city are apparently the sports stadiums. That’s where the police say they are now expecting the next Al Qaeda attack - a ball game is more likely to be hit than tomorrow’s meeting of the security council.

The Feds are warning that an Al-Qaeda training manual specifically lists “blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality, and sin … and attacking vital economic centres” as desired targets of the global terror network.

A joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI said while the agencies “have no information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack, we believe it is prudent to raise the security awareness of our local law enforcement partners regarding the targets and tactics of previous terrorist activity.”

They obviously don’t realise that all of their local law enforcement partners in New York (I assume they include the NYPD) are patrolling the weird array of protests outside the United Nations building.

Still, since it appears that the NYPD accidentally blew the surveilance of a terrorist suspect this month by questioning one of his friends about him, maybe the FBI will be happy if all the cops are kept out of the way.

Sniffer dogs target pubs in drugs operation

Police with dogs have been patrolling Bracknell’s pubs to sniff out drug users.

The group of police officers, dogs and members of Bracknell Forest Council were out in Bracknell on Friday, September 4, visiting pubs to try to identify anyone who may have been using drugs.

The operation aimed to warn owners and managers exactly where drugs had been used in their pubs so they can improve their security in those areas.

In one pub, which has not been named, a woman was cautioned for possession of a Class B drug. Small quantities of Class A drugs and cannabis were also seized during the operation.

Inspector Peter Carter, from Thames Valley Police, who led the operation, said: “The use of drugs in licensed premises will not be tolerated.

“Mixing drugs and alcohol often leads to an increase in violence.

“People under the influence of drugs and alcohol often make decisions they would not normally make.

“We are committed to ensuring that residents of Bracknell Forest can spend an enjoyable evening out without it being spoiled by alcohol or drug-fuelled anti-social behaviour.”

Jillian Hunt, drug and alcohol team manager at the council, added: “Using illicit drugs over a long period of time can have a long-term effect on both physical and mental health.

“Bracknell Forest offers a full range of services to residents in order to reduce the number of people using drugs.

“The drug and alcohol action team will continue to work with the police and licensing officers in order to reduce the number of people using drugs.”

Anyone who feels they need help for a drug or alcohol problem can call the council’s New Hope Centre in Broadway in the town centre on (01344) 312 360.

Dog tracks missing woman

Intoxicated Nanaimo woman was found unconscious after riding in Wastelands area

By Danielle Bell, Daily NewsSeptember 24, 2009



Nanaimo RCMP say a 45-year-old woman found unconscious and wet in the Wastelands area late Sunday could have died within hours had a police dog not tracked her down.

Police say the intoxicated woman had wandered away in extremely dense brush after riding ATVs with friends in the Wastelands, a North Nanaimo area popular with riders.

Friends phoned police when they could not find her. She is believed to have been missing for several hours before Nanaimo RCMP Cpl. Dean Muir and his police dog Lar were called around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Muir said Wednesday that it was dark and about 10 C as he and Lar embarked on what would be their deepest search into the Wastelands, more than four kilometres from Weigles Road.

Muir took Lar to the area the woman was last seen and the dog discovered the woman in about 40 minutes.

She was partially clothed, lying on her side in dense brush at the bottom of a steep slope. She was not responsive and had gone into seizures by the time police arrived.

"You probably wouldn't have found her body. Unless you were within a metre, you wouldn't have seen her," said Muir on Wednesday. "She would have died by midnight. Guaranteed."

Police officers wrapped her in their patrol jackets before search and rescue crews used pulled her out with ropes. The woman was treated for hypothermia but was otherwise not seriously injured.

Other recent efforts by Lar include drug searches and tracking break-in suspects. The German shepherd has worked with Muir for eight years but will retire from police work soon.

"It's nice to know you saved a life," said Muir.

DBell@nanaimodailynews.com

Woman's body found after mountain fall

A WOMAN’S body has been found at the bottom of a mountainside after reports of a fall.

A search was launched after the emergency services were told a woman was believed to have fallen from a mountainside at Idwal Slabs, Snowdonia, at 6.26pm yesterday.

The search operation involved North Wales Police, Ogwen Valley mountain rescue team, the Search and Rescue Dogs Association and 22 Squadron RAF Search and Rescue.

Is this the best year to hunt ruffed grouse?

With the monster drumming counts last spring and evidence that Minnesota and Wisconsin are approaching the peak of the 10-year grouse cycle, this seems to be the year to hunt ruffed grouse. But I have other reasons.

#1. There are only so many autumns in one’s life and whether at the peak or in the valley of the grouse population cycle, there will be grouse in the woods.

#2. Fluctuations in grouse populations don’t matter to dogs. They will hunt their hearts out and search for birds like they do always. They will carefully select which cover to hunt by following their noses along damp alder edges and into aspen cuts. Excitement will mount when one dog catches a scent, gets birdy and stands on lofty, intense point.

#3. Autumn is a fine season to be in the woods. The dogwood berries will be white on bright red stems and the aspen leaves will turn golden and, permeating the entire forest, will be the evocative smell of damp, fallen leaves.

I can’t predict if my dogs and I will find few or many grouse in a given day. Some of my best days were in “low” population cycles and, conversely, the biggest disappointments have been in “high” grouse years.

But it doesn’t matter. My dogs and I will be out in the woods and we will be hunting for them. For me, the sport is in the pursuit.

See you in the woods.

Search is on for suspect in burglary attempt

By: CHRISTOPHER RUVO Bucks County Courier Times

A K-9 unit combed a Warwick neighborhood in search of a would-be burglar Wednesday, but the suspect eluded arrest.

Still, the failed break-in bears similarities to another attempted burglary earlier this month, and while police can't say for sure if both jobs are the work of the same person, they note similarities between the incidents are striking. They are asking residents to lock doors and be on alert.

"The events are similar in many ways. They're happening the same time of day. They occurred only about a mile apart," said Warwick Lt. Mark Goldberg.

The suspect abandoned both break-in attempts after being spotted by children who were home at the time. No evidence suggests the suspect was targeting the homes specifically because children were present, said police.

Around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, someone crept up to the rear sliding glass door of a home on the 1900 block of Brook Lane in the Orchard Valley development.

The door was locked, but the resident heard the suspect trying to slide it open, and a 2-year-old child saw the suspect, who ran from the property, said authorities.

A police dog tracked the suspect's trail for a time, but lost the scent around a drainage swale on Pheasant Run Drive, police said.

The child was the only one who saw the burglar, who was described as a male wearing a white shirt.

In the other incident, a 12-year-old boy thwarted a person's attempt to break into a home on the 1400 block of Marielle Drive around 11:15 a.m. Sept. 4, police said.

Again, the person slunk up to a rear sliding door and tried to enter. The boy saw the man, who, realizing he'd been spotted, ran away. Dogs tried to track him but could not detect a trail.

September 24, 2009

Search warrant reveals little in case of Robert Manwill's death

Despite spending hours over two days searching the backyard of Evan Wallis' south Ada County home for evidence of then-missing Robert Manwill, detectives left with fewer than a dozen pieces of evidence, according to search warrant documents released this week.

But Wallis' home was just one of two residences police searched in the 10-day search that drew more than 2,300 volunteers and national attention. The other was the Oak Park Village apartment shared by Robert's mother, Melissa Jenkins, and her boyfriend, Daniel Ehrlick Jr. - both charged with first-degree murder after the boy's body was found Aug. 3 in the New York Canal in southern Ada County.

What police found at Jenkins' South Boise apartment on July 30 - and even what evidence allowed them to get the search warrant in the first place - remains a mystery.

Fourth District Magistrate John Hawley sealed those search warrant materials at the request of county prosecutors in July. This week, he rejected a request from the Idaho Statesman to unseal the documents.

The evidence used to charge Ehrlick and Jenkins with first-degree murder has not been publicly disclosed either, because prosecutors presented it in a secret grand jury hearing.

Hawley determined that the search warrant documents - public records routinely obtained by the Statesman and other media outlets in high-profile criminal cases - should be sealed in this case because Jenkins and Ehrlick's "Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial is a compelling interest that outweighs the public's First Amendment right of access to the documents."

Hawley said the information used by police to get the search warrant contains "numerous hearsay statements that would not be admissible at trial, and many of the statements are both accusatory and inflammatory" - and could make it hard to find an impartial jury for either defendant.

Hawley dismissed the Statesman's argument that such documents have been publicly disclosed in similar high-profile cases, like the 2004 Azad Abdullah first-degree murder case, where a jury that eventually sentenced Abdullah to death was selected without a problem.

Hawley did unseal the search warrant materials for Wallis' Southland Avenue home, saying there was "nothing in those documents that creates a substantial risk for prejudice to (Ehrlick and Jenkins)."

Wallis, who has insisted he had no knowledge of what happened and has not been charged in the case, is a friend of the Ehrlick family, and on July 31 and Aug. 1 he granted police access to his home in the 6600 block of Southdale Avenue, near Five Mile Road.

Police became interested in his home after he reported that his SUV had been stolen and mysteriously returned around the time Robert was reported missing.

A bloodhound showed interest in the house - which surprised the dog's handler, who was looking for traces of Robert in the SUV. A search-and-rescue dog trained to find human remains made a "passive alert" - detecting the possibility of a scent of human remains - at parts of the backyard. But no remains were found.

Police eventually took three latex gloves, two empty water bottles and two pairs of work gloves from Wallis' backyard - as well as a pair of shorts from inside the home. Search warrant documents don't say whether police suspect those items either belonged to or came into contact with Robert.

Patrick Orr: 373-6619

Man tries to burgle houses wearing a high visibility jacket

Meet Ulster’s dimmest burglar — who went on a dead-of-night robbery spree lit up like a Christmas tree. Stupid Stephen Hamilton, known as ‘Freddy’, proved he was no bright spark when he wore a glow-in-the-dark bib as he tried to break into six homes on the same street.

The cretin crook’s flourescent bib meant the game was up before he even had the chance to rob one house.

Neighbours in the area called cops as soon as they spotted dozy Hamilton’s high-visibility jacket moving around in the dark as he went from house to house jiggling door and window handles.

And cops with a sniffer dog quickly tracked him to a nearby supermarket carpark.

Hapless Hamilton (pictured right), 24, tried to dupe officers by giving a false name but when police searched him they discovered the high-vis coat that had alerted neighbours.

They also later found his scooter dumped near the scene.

Judge Peter Gibson branded Hamilton’s bungling 4.30am burglary attempt in Dundonald ‘amateurish in the extreme’ when he sentenced him to 15 months in jail, suspended for three years.

And when Sunday Life confronted Hamilton at his north Belfast house last week, the lanky lad held his hands up to being a bungling burglar.

“I dunno. It was just f***ing stupid,” he confessed when asked why he wore a flourescent bib on his under cover of darkness raid.

He said he got the bib when he was working as a postman.

“I was gambling a lot when I did it and needed cash or whatever to pay for it,” added the red-faced thief.

Hamilton, who has a record for burglary, was on bail for other offences — including going equipped for theft — when he struck at Dunlady Manor in Dundonald in February.

Dopey Hamilton, who lives at Lawther Court, pleaded guilty to six charges of attempted burglary and one of obstructing cops on February 19.

Prosecutor Nicola Auret told Downpatrick Crown Court that Hamilton had a previous record for burglary and theft.

Hamilton’s defence lawyer said his client was a gambling addict who needed help.

Hamilton’s bungling raid has earned him a place in websites which list the thickest criminals in modern policing.

He’s been lumped in with the one-legged thief caught by Bristol cops earlier this month trying to steal a bicycle and the US ram-raiders snared when they left their number plate at the scene of a botched cash machine robbery.

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/man-tries-to-burgle-houses-wearing-a-high-visibility-jacket-14501751.html#ixzz0RxGsQpjV