Cadaver Dog Hit Brings Hope to Victims’ Families

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — At approximately 1:15 p.m., cadaver dog searchers from K-9 Alert Search and Rescue “hit” on a location along the Colonial Parkway in an area not covered by the original permits obtained by the victims’ families.

Several searchers present on the Colonial Parkway, as well as other members of the news media, have asked about the meaning of a “hit.”  Cadaver dogs are trained to search for human remains only.  As such, they instinctively bypass the remains of animals. 

During today’s Colonial Parkway search, after the first successful hit, handlers separately brought two additional cadaver dogs to the location in question.  These dogs also detected human remains.  

“I’ve never seen three dogs independently hit on a location where human remains weren’t found,” one of the searchers told SF. 

But just whose remains lay just off the historic parkway?

Jonathan Connolly, a CRM Specialist for the Colonial National Historic Park, is responsible for the Colonial Parkway’s compliance with federal preservation laws.  He also has a background in archeology.  In 2007 and 2008, the William & Mary Center for Archeological Research conducted an extensive excavation project along the entire route of the Colonial Parkway.  Those involved dug holes every 15 meters along the scenic parkway no further than 250 feet from the road’s center line and did not recover any human remains. The area of today’s cadaver dog hits is only yards from the parameters of the 2007 and 2008 William & Mary dig.  

“I’ve checked the area against our records,” Connelly told SF, “and I don’t believe the area where the dogs hit is one where historical remains are located.”

Connolly further noted that the area on the banks of the York River, now known as the Colonial Parkway, was once home to native American Indians and then, since the early 1600s, European settlers.  A plantation was once located near this area; however, after examining the ground near the cadaver dogs’ hit, Connelly believes the location is not the grave of slave.  He noted that the burial grounds of slaves tend to rise six to eight inches above the surface.  The location of the cadaver dog hit is level to the ground. 

When SF left the scene at approximately 3:30 p.m., an agent from the FBI was standing by.  My understanding is an FBI evidence response team is en route to explore the area of the hit.

“In most instances,” said Connolly, “we cannot just dig up remains.  Since this is a criminal matter, they [the FBI] can.”

Are the purported remains located beneath the surface just off the Colonial Parkway those of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey? Only time and further examination will tell.

Yet the members of the Call and Hailey families present during the search are hopeful this new discovery will bring them closure.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010

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