VDEM spokesperson David Watson has stated that the nature of the search for Hannah Graham has changed since the original community search conducted two weeks ago. Original efforts following Graham’s disappearance were focused on finding a missing person, now search teams are now focused on finding evidence. Specially trained search officials are using canines to search outdoor areas.
If this is true, and professionals are now being called in to redo the efforts of volunteer community members, it could be that areas previously searched will need to be searched again.
This kind of work is so difficult. I recall being involved in a search of a wooded area back in 2005. This was in a rural area of Quebec where the body of a victim was found in 1977, and where two hunters thought they spotted clothing matching the description of what my sister was wearing when she went missing back in 1978. Albeit the search took place over 25 years after the events, we had less than a couple of acres to cover of dense woodland (the Graham investigation has targeted an 8 mile radius around downtown Charlottesville). There were about 25 of us over the course of 2 days. We found a lot but to this day I feel we were searching too far West, and therefore in the wrong spot.
What we found: A shovel, a purse, remains of a woman’s shoe, some other things. We sent it all to a forensics lab in British Columbia (the same lab that processed the recovery site in the Robert Pickton case): the results came up empty: no DNA evidence or forensic ties on any of it.
In my recollection – and don’t be too harsh on me, I haven’t Googled this – these mass searches rarely come up with anything evidentiary (the one exception I recall is the Molly Bish case in MA). It’s usually very much like the discovery of Morgan Hartington’s remains:
Theresa Allore = a muskrat trapper
Theresa Allore’s wallet = a farmer on a tractor
Sharon Prior = a farmer
Louise Camirand = two hunters
Having said that, LE should not stop what they are doing. The case is still relatively fresh: keep looking, keep asking for help.