Friday, October 12, 2007
Story last updated at
10/12/2007 - 12:34 pm

Continuing the search Police work together in their efforts to find answers

By Andre Riley | Andre.riley@examiner.net

Deep inside Little Blue Trace Park, workers from across the public service spectrum aren't expected to continue the search today for clues to unlock the mystery surrounding Summer Shipp's death.

Since Shipp's remains were identified earlier this week, scores of law enforcement officers, scientists and community support staff have descended on the park, nestled deep in the Little Blue Valley between Missouri 291 and the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. Using teamwork and heavy equipment, more than 70 people daily have spent the last two days looking for clues in a 2- to 3-square mile plot that could provide new insight into the nearly three-year old case.

So far the site search hasn't revealed any information police are ready to disclose. It is also unclear when the search will continue, according to reports from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

Still, the work has been strenuous, tedious and much different from a standard crime investigation, according to Independence Police Sgt. Dennis Green. The search has demanded much from everyone involved.

"We've got some real special individuals. We're understaffed yet they give us 100 percent," Green said as workers used a backhoe to sift moist soil scooped from the river bank. "You just do your best with what you've got."

The effort has been led by Independence police and fire academy cadets. The aspiring public servants have done the hard labor.

The cadets were the eyes of the search initially, walking arm's length apart through the dense brush and around tall trees while looking for easily seen evidence. Supervisors developed a grid of the search area, planned over an undisclosed area along the river banks, and had the young men and women spearhead the search. When light was low, lamps were placed to illuminate the site.

The cadets were not allowed be interviewed about their duties, which also included wading in the river.

When investigators determined additional access was needed, a bulldozer was brought in to transform a small man-made path into a walkway about the size of a side street in a residential neighborhood. The mini-roadway is lined with water hoses to bring water from fire trucks to the backhoe, where it helped sift the soil.

All but two Independence police detectives, as well as officers from other divisions, have helped with the search. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department has also allocated a large portion of its investigators to the search.

The additional manpower was required because this investigation, outdoors in a mostly rural area, isn't conventional work, Green said. Poison ivy, snakes and multiple types of bacteria were all threats.

So far, an odd mix of items have been discovered. Balls, wheels from a baby stroller and other junk has turned up. The lack of additional evidence isn't a total surprise, Green said.

"Obviously, you want to get what you can. That's why you start small and get larger," Green said. "After 2 years and 10 months, there's not a lot you're going to get to begin with."