Last weekend I was given my first crime reporting assignment. I got an email from one of the editors I work with saying she had an “unusual assignment,” if I was interested.
What was this unusual assignment? Covering a two day dig in which hopefully volunteer search crews would uncover the remains of teen girl who went missing 23 years ago. I immediately responded back that I was in.
At first, I was really excited. I mean, this was going to be just like all of those crime shows that I love watching. A private investigator. The police. A forensic anthropologist. K-9 search teams.
Then the day before, I got really nervous. This is a big story. Like all of the local television stations and newspapers and radio shows were going to be covering it too. I’d better not screw up was all I could think.
I arrived on the scene and there were news vans dotted throughout the parking lot where everyone was convening - about 400 feet from the actual dig site. There were people in uniforms everywhere, search dogs being walked and then a back hoe pulls into the lot. I was getting excited.
You know how lawyers will tell you that real life lawyering is nothing like it is on television? How they hardly ever go to trial? Well, working a dig for human remains is kind of the same thing in the respect that it’s not nearly as fast-paced and exciting as you’d think it’d be.
Setting up took a long time. Then there’s the actual digging, sifting of dirt and letting different dogs sniff around. It’s a really slow process.
In my mind after a few hours there would be a grand moment where a key piece of evidence was found. In reality, after two days, nothing was found - which is really unfortunate for the family who still has no idea what happened to their daughter.
So, a lot of my time was spent hanging out, interviewing people during their breaks, sneaking a peak at the investigation when I could and talking to other reporters. There were also a few times when we were given press briefings as a whole (top set of photos).
All that being said, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was such a nice change of pace from the usual reporting assignments I get and I got to talk to a lot of really interesting people who are doing great things to help others.
I ended up writing three pieces total over the course of that assignment. I can’t find the first one online, but here are the second and third. Below is a short video I took that gives a good demonstration of what all went on during the dig - using a back hoe, hand digging and sifting dirt. Everything but the search dogs.