Lauren Spierer search: Police at landfill south of Terre Haute
Sycamore Ridge landfill in Pimento (Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times)
Police kept reporters and the public away from the site at the Sycamore Ridge Landfill, off Ind. 159 in Pimento, but a large yellow tent was visible toward the back of the landfill. Heavy machinery kicked up dust as it moved trash around.
The landfill is where Bloomington’s trash get hauled after a stop at a transfer station on the city’s south side.
Police searching the trash wore white protective jumpsuits, tucked into yellow, calf-high boots; some wore bandanas, sunglasses and jeans. All wore yellow reflective safety vests.
From about noon to 1 p.m., a group of searchers moved between an office building at a weigh station and an adjacent building at the landfill’s entrance. About 1:10 p.m., these searchers climbed into a blue van that headed back into the landfill. This van was followed by a dark, unmarked police car.
Members of theBloomington police, Indiana University police and FBI took part in Tuesday’s search. Members of the Indiana State Police and Vigo County Sheriff’s Department took posts at the entrance about 6 a.m. Tuesday.
The search officially started about 7 a.m. Tuesday, according toBloomington police Capt. Joe Qualters. Plans for the operation had been in the works since the week of June 6.
“Preparations for this undertaking began within days of Lauren Spierer being reported missing on June 3,” Qualters stated in a news release. The 20-year-old was reportedly last seen about 4:30 a.m. that Friday at the intersection of 11th Street and College Avenue, walking south.
Dumpsters in the area of 11th and College had been searched by police “... immediately after Spierer was reported missing,” Qualters stated.
“While working with the company that operates the landfill, Republic Services, waste that was taken from the city on and around the dates of Spierer’s disappearance was identified at the landfill site. That location within the landfill has remained isolated and secured since that time with no additional waste placed in the identified area,” the release states.
The pile of trash and waste that investigators plan to search is 70 feet by 120 feet by 20 feet.
Qualters described the search process as follows. The targeted trash was moved by truck to a search area and spread out in a long line. Officers formed a line and used long-tined “potato rakes” to prod and look through the trash for clues and evidence, he explained Tuesday in a phone interview from the Bloomington police station.
As police search one line of trash, a second line of trash is moved and prepared. “It’s almost like tag-team,” Qualters described. Police will search one line of trash at a time, “but another will be laid out so it’s a continual process.”
Once officers finish with the line they had been searching, a truck pushes it to the side to allow for a new line.
Safety of the searchers is a top priority, he said. Police will wear protective boots, white jumpsuits, respirators, masks and heavy gloves.
Bloomington police spent a considerable amount of time obtaining the protective gear in the quantity they needed. “That, in itself was a pretty major effort,” he said.
Area fire departments and members of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security were contacted to help gather the gear for members of the Bloomington and IU police departments. Bloomington FBI had its own gear.
Qualters estimated searchers would conduct 12-hour shifts at the landfill. Bloomington police account for six to 10 of the searchers in that group of 20 to 30 expected each day.
“Personnel costs will be the biggest investment,” Qualters said, but could not give estimates on how much the undertaking is expected to cost. A total will be determined later.