Friday, March 23, 2007

Expense Is Too Great To Recover Body

The following clip is from the Houston Chronicle. The "Power's That Be" say the expense is too great to try to recover the body of Tynesha Stewart, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

This is totally unacceptable, especially in Texas. Texans have the reputation of doing what is right and taking care of business.

But this is not just a Texas issue, it is a "human" issue. The body of Tynesha Stewart needs to be recovered no matter what the cost. Our tax dollars are used for so many other things. Why can't they divert some of the money that is used for the red light cameras to find her body and set her family's mind at ease.

Faced with the "virtually impossible" task of excavating 40,000 tons of landfill waste to find Tynesha Stewart's body, Harris County sheriff's officials made the agonizing decision Thursday night that the odds of success were too remote to try.

Sheriff's officials met with the slain Texas A&M University student's mother, Gale Shields, shortly before a scheduled 7 p.m. candlelight vigil to inform her there would be no search for her daughter's body.

"Oh my God!" a sobbing Shields said later. "It just broke my heart that they could put a dollar amount on my, on a person's life, especially if they probably know where she is. ... And they just want to leave her out there. They just want us to leave her out there in the trash because of a dollar amount. I just can't understand that."

A crowd of about 300 was packed into pews at Abiding Word Lutheran Church when community activist Quanell X took the pulpit, with Shields at his side, and announced officials would not be searching for the body.

Jason Glenn, one of Stewart's two uncles who play football in the NFL, responded with an angry outburst.

"What?" he shouted, then stormed out of the church.

Sheriff's officials say the man charged in the slaying, Stewart's ex-boyfriend Timothy Wayne Shepherd, confessed to investigators Wednesday night that he choked her, stuffed her body in a large plastic storage container and placed her body in a Dumpster in northwest Harris County on March 15. Authorities found no body in that bin, which had been emptied at least twice since.

By day's end, officials with Waste Management and the sheriff's office had estimated that there is a 65 percent chance that Stewart's body is at the Atascocita Recycling and Disposal Facility, 3623 Wilson Road.

There is a smaller chance the body is in a landfill in Clute, which is in southern Brazoria County.

The 504-acre landfill in northeast Harris County receives about 3,500 tons of nonhazardous residential, commercial and industrial waste every day. Although officials have narrowed their search area to a 2- to 3-acre section at the landfill, they said the body could be buried beneath as much as 40,000 tons and 50 feet of refuse.

"It's not 100 percent impossible, but it's very, very very rare to find what you are looking for," said Chuck Rivette, senior district manager for Waste Management, which owns the Atascocita landfill.

He added, "It's virtually impossible."

A case in Utah, John Martin, public information officer with the sheriff's office, said officials researched similar excavations across the country and found only one that was successful: In 2004, the body of a woman was found in a Utah landfill after a 33-day search. Martin noted that the search would have to assume that Stewart had told investigators the truth about where he placed the body.

Martin acknowledged that the issue had become the talk of the town, with many in the community — including Quanell X and radio talk-show host Chris Baker — criticizing the sheriff's office for not immediately committing to the search.

Martin, who said the department truly wants "to return Ms. Stewart to her family," said the office is prepared for backlash.

"Obviously it is just a heart-wrenching decision for everybody involved," he said.

"I don't think anything we could say would adequately console them (the family) at this point. ... We don't expect it to be a popular decision. But we've tried to be as pragmatic as possible."

Equusearch offers help
The excavation, which would have cost at least $350,000 and been paid for by taxpayers, would have required the clearing of another five or six acres adjacent to the suspected search site to allow large equipment in and out and to provide a place to hold the waste that would have been removed. Officials could not estimate how long the search might have taken.
Martin denied that money had anything to do with the department's decision.

"We didn't have the confidence we would be successful," he said.

At the vigil, held at the church where teams led by Texas Equusearch had assembled during a protracted hunt for Stewart earlier in the week, Quanell X called on friends and loved ones to raise money for an excavation.

An Equusearch official vowed the group would do all it could, if given the chance.

"It's an overwhelming task, but somebody's got to do it," said Cindy Wisdom, a case manager. "It's bad enough the daughter was murdered, but it's inhumane to let her body rot in a dump."

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