WOODLAND (CBS13) – Cold cases, sometimes decades old, can be hard to crack, but authorities are turning to a specialized K-9 team from out of state to search for clues.
The K-9 team will be in the area for about a week. During that time, they are going to be looking at three separate cases. Tracy Jones works with special K-9s Search and Recovery out of Texas. This week, she is working a levee outside Woodland with four-year-old field trial golden retriever Hannah.
Hannah is a cadaver dog bred for this kind of work.
“Her Momma is a disaster dog and her dad is a champion bird retriever dog,” said Jones.
On this trip to Northern California, they are revisiting several cold cases, including 11-year-old Michaela Joy Garecht, who went missing from Hayward back in 1988. Tracking is a challenge with a case this old, especially if there is water, but Jones says it can be done.
“It’s a different scent because if you’ve got decomposition, it’s going to smell versus old bones. It is going to be a weak smell so it’s all scent,” said Jones.
She works with Ja’Na Bickel who started the company 30 years ago.
She has a 9-year-old Belgian Malanoir who she works with now. The first year she worked two cases, but this year 60 across the nation, including in disaster areas.
“You’re helping families, law enforcement, you’re really helping the victim,” Bickel said.
The K-9 team has been to this area multiple times, thanks to the fundraising efforts of Shelli LaMadrid who works for El Dorado Search and Rescue. she’s flown them here to work 14 cold cases, including one near and dear to LaMadrid’s heart.
“She was taken by three or four men,” she said with a tear in her eye.
LaMadrid’s ex-partner Kathy disappeared on December 17, 2004 from Fort Bragg.
“Over the years, we have cleared a lot of areas — half of all the pullouts on Highway 20 heading to Fort Bragg,” she said.
The dogs have not found anything yet. So far, what they have done has helped tremendously.
“It’s about clearing areas so we don’t have to wonder,” she said
LaMadrid hopes the K-9 team will help find two Woodland-area teens who went missing in the fall of 2016. Three men are on trial accused of murdering 17-year-old Elijah Moore and his high school friend Enrique Rios, even though the teens’ bodies have never been found.
It can be a grim task that isn’t for everyone, admits Jones, whose father was a cop.
“This is his badge number, so he’s with me all the time,” she said as she held the locket around her neck.
It’s a mission to find the missing.
“We can hopefully bring a loved one home so they can properly be put to rest,” said Jones.
In the next few days, they’ll be focusing on the Woodland area and the case with the two missing boys