Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lee Morris spent several hours today (June 20) carefully watching as a backhoe meticulously scraped dirt from a heavily-wooded Hillsboro hillside during the latest search for clues into what happened to Amanda Jones, who went missing in 2005.
Morris was watching to see if any topsoil was mixed in with the hard clay earth beneath the foliage, which could have provided a break in the 14-year-old missing person case.
Unfortunately, that did not happen.
“It’s not necessarily a setback, though we had hoped for better results,” Morris said after nothing was found to help with the case.
Jones, who lived in Pevely, was 26 and nine months pregnant with her second child when she went missing on Aug. 14, 2005, after meeting Brian Westfall, the man she said was the father of her unborn child, at the Hillsboro Community Civic Center.
The excavation and search today were about a half mile north of the civic center grounds on Business 21.
The Eureka and St. Clair Special Emergency Service provided three dogs that specialize in finding human remains for the search, and they didn’t turn up any new evidence either.
“If any other leads arise, we will follow up on them, and hopefully, we will be able to bring this case to a close,” Morris said.
When Jones went missing, her car was found unlocked on the civic center parking lot, but her purse, keys, wallet and cell phone were missing.
“We want to find Ms. Jones for her and her family,” Morris said. “We will follow every lead until we find Ms. Jones.”
The latest lead came from a search of the 25-acre civic club grounds on May 19. That search was led by the Community United Effort, also known as the CUE Center for Missing Persons, a national nonprofit organization “serving missing persons nationwide.” About 30 people and nine dogs helped with it.
During that search last month, dogs indicated there could be human remains on the private property next to the civic center, Sheriff Dave Marshak said.
“For us, it is a matter of investigative responsibility,” he said. “Any time leads are generated, we follow up and continue to follow up on leads regarding this case. In this situation, K-9s had alerted us, and we took the time to get our crime scene unit and an anthropologist out there.”
Morris said investigators initially tried to dig in the area with shovels, but the topography and hard soil made it necessary to bring in a backhoe from the Jefferson County Public Works Department to excavate the site.
However, after a 3-foot hole was dug, no clues were uncovered.
Along with Morris, Sheriff’s Office Detective Jaime Simpher and Lt. Brian Taylor were at the site at different times throughout the dig, which began at about 8:30 a.m. and finished at about 2:20 p.m.
Lindsay Trammell, an anthropologist with the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office, also was present during the excavation.
Two Belgian Malinois dogs – a 4-year-old named Tulsa and a 10-year-old named Biba – as well as a 9-year-old English Lab named Sam, helped with the search. Today, all three dogs showed interest in a spot next to the area that was identified in May and excavated this morning.
So, the backhoe was used to dig up that area, too, but after that was excavated, Biba no longer showed interest in that spot.
“The dogs help us verify if anything is there,” Morris said. “They can show interests in spots, but they can’t tell us how deep to dig. After we began digging, we brought the dogs back in to see if we need to expand the area we are digging or dig deeper.”
While no new leads were found today, the case remains open, Marshak said.
“We continue to follow up on leads as they develop,” he said. “We have to do what we can legally to help the family find answers. We will continue to investigate within the confines of the law.”
In 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it had new information in the case, but would not elaborate. Soon afterward, the FBI announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of what became of Jones and her baby.
Anyone with information about Jones is asked to contact the FBI in St. Louis at 314-589-2500 or online at tips.fbi.gov. Or, they may call the Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau at 636-797-5515.