FRIENDSHIP, Ala. (AP) — Technology, including GPS trackers accurate down to the inch, is playing a key role in a massive search going on for an Alabama woman who hasn’t been seen in two decades.
Traci Pittman Kegley, then 30, was reported missing on April 26, 1998, and her disappearance has since become one of the most high-profile, unsolved police cases in Elmore County, located in central Alabama. A massive search is underway on a 300-acre tract of land near the Friendship community, about 10 miles east of Tallassee.
District Attorney Randall Houston gave an update Monday afternoon of the first full day of searching.
“We are very pleased with how everything went today,” he said, at the command center set up behind the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department. “Despite bad weather this morning, we have covered about 60 percent of the area today that we want to cover. It has gone very smoothly, and we couldn’t be happier with how everything has gone so far.
“We fully expect that we will be able to cover the remaining 40 percent of the area we want to search Tuesday.”
More than 200 law enforcement officers and 15 cadaver dog teams are part of the first phase of the search. Keeping track of all that activity falls to satellites, portable cellphone towers, drones and state of the art technology.
Jay Moseley, director of the Alabama Fusion Center, says this is the first time all these assets have been brought together for a search of this magnitude.
“One of our missions in the fusion center is mapping and when we began working on this we saw a quick need to provide situational awareness for our leadership, the searchers and law enforcement,” Moseley said. “We have aerial photos of this area from 1997-1998, but we needed more up to date images. We used drones to fly the area and give us new images.
“This allows us to give almost a real-time perspective for those back here in the command center with the needs of the teams on the ground.”
The searchers and dog teams appear as green dots, walking across drone-generated images on computer screens.
“This technology is amazing,” Houston said. “Without it, there is no way we could have covered this much ground, this thoroughly in a week, much less the first day.”
The cadaver dog teams are expected to work the remaining area of the land Tuesday, Houston said. Then ground teams will come in to give a more thorough search of any areas tagged as of interest by the dog teams.
Houston said the search warrant for the area expired Saturday. So, if more time is needed?
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems convincing the judge we need another search warrant,” he said.
Kegley’s car, a Geo Storm, was found abandoned a few miles north of Wetumpka on the day of her disappearance. Her then 2-year-old daughter was inside, unharmed.
The area being searched is about 20 miles away from where her car was found. A tip led to the massive search, which brings together more than 20 law enforcement agencies, volunteer dog teams and private companies.
Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com