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.