Another landfill search ends in failure

There is probably no bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than searching landfills for missing bodies.  While these endeavors may seem a humane response to tragic situations, the success of these searches has proven an extreme longshot.  The only beneficiaries in many cases are the politicians who pander to the wishes of  grieved relatives and pressure groups trying to promote their cause.

Take the case of Jhessye Shockley, a 5-year-old black girl reported missing from her Phoenix-area home on October 11.

Police, using “reliable” information, began a search on February 6 of the Butterfield Station Landfill south of the city for Shockley’s body.  That search ended yesterday, June 27.  After combing through 9,500 tons of highly compressed trash over a 4 1/2 month period at a cost of more than $750,000, the result was failure.  No body found.

Cost by no means should be the determinant in a landfill search.  But police must have accurate information before beginning the search.  Was the body truly put in a particular trash container?  What day of the week was it placed there?  From there you must count on trash collectors to keep accurate records.    What truck hauled the trash to what landfill on what date?  In what cell in the landfill’s mountain of garbage would that container of trash have been dumped?   That’s a lot of good luck to ask for.  Two other body searches in Butterfield Station likewise turned out fruitless.

As for little Jhessye Shockley, we will not know for some time, if ever, what information police officials had that led them to charge out to Butterfield on what seems a wild-goose chase.  Was it politics, officials wanting to posture to the black community that they are not bigots?  Or was there “reasonable” grounds to make the search effort?

A trial of a suspected guilty party might go a long way to answer those questions.  No charges have been brought although the mother seems to be the prime suspect in Jhessye’s disappearance.

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A hiker’s log: June 2012

Last entry first.

The saguaro’s red, edible fruit bursting out.

June 18, Monday:  North Mountain Park, inner basin.  Crushing heat, 109 at 4 o’clock when I shoulder the backpack with fresh cool water from the fountain at the Visitors Center and head west on the dusty trail.  Official high hit 112.  Only reason I’m out here is to shoot photos of the saguaro fruit seen yesterday near sunset when it was five degrees less hot and I had Nebra’s company.  I give myself a short leash.  No more than 30 minutes.  About a mile roundtrip.  Though four other vehicles bake in the parking lot, I see no one along the basin trails.  Who but a fool would venture out here? Ah, there they are.  I see three hikers in the distance trudging up the paved trail to North Mountain summit.   It is a bleak landscape already battered by heat, and summer hasn’t even arrived.  Bleak and dry.  A sign warns of “extreme” fire danger.  A recent article in the Republic portrays Arizona’s forests as possibly vanishing to fire in another generation.

A bad sign.

The bleakness numbs the mind for there is nothing much of visual interest out here.  The little creosote leaves have traded green luster for gold, and the once dazzling ironwood trees with their pinkish flowers stand bedecked by drab brown seed pods.  I find a few saguaros with red fruit just beginning to burst from once white flowers, and stop to fire away a few shots with my Canon.  I stir up a jackrabbit as I approach.  Can’t get back to the car soon enough.  I may come out there again this summer but it will take something special like a night walk under a full moon.