Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fayette County Hunt for Girl Called off Police Suspend Search for Missing Florida Girl after Two Futile Days

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fayette County Hunt for Girl Called off Police Suspend Search for Missing Florida Girl after Two Futile Days

Article excerpt

Pennsylvania State Police have suspended their search in Fayette County for the body of 7-year-old Jennifer Marteliz, who disappeared outside her Florida home 30 years ago, after failing to find her remains.

Dozens of state troopers, Mercyhurst University forensic anthropologists and two cadaver dogs have been searching a wooded area off Gilchrist Road in North Union since Thursday at noon without success. State police Trooper Joseph Christy said investigators have called off further searches and will talk to detectives in Tampa, where the girl disappeared in 1982, to decide what to do next.

Andrea Davis, spokeswoman for the Tampa Police Department, said police have not ruled out searching the site at a later date but plan to pursue the lead through other investigative measures.

For now, local investigators have come up empty-handed despite an intensive search of the property, said Dennis Dirkmaat, director of applied forensic sciences at Mercyhurst and one of the leaders of the search. Changes to the area's topography, the size of the property and the fact that the remains likely were buried all complicate their recovery.

"If the bones are on the surface and we use forensic tools to search for them, we're almost 100 percent certain to find them," Mr. Dirkmaat said. "But when they're buried, all bets are off."

Investigators probably will search the property with cadaver dogs again next spring, when the growth of new vegetation might have brought up smells from the ground, he said.

A Florida woman, Anna Cummings, brought the cold case back to the attention of authorities several weeks ago when she sent Tampa authorities a lengthy email claiming knowledge of Jennifer's burial site. In the email, she wrote that, as a 10-year-old, she had seen evidence linking Steve Visnosky, a now-deceased neighbor who lived on Rankin Airshaft Road off Gilchrist Road, to Jennifer's murder. …

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