Police on Berry Search: ‘We Had Our Hopes Up’
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The search for Amanda Berry is over. For the past two days, excavating crews dug through an empty lot after receiving a tip from a convict who claimed he knew where the missing teen was buried.
Around 2:30 Friday afternoon, crews completed their search at a small lot on West 30th Street and Wade Avenue in Cleveland, but were not able to locate any remains.
Cleveland resident Pedro Castro said, “That’s a waste of money.”
“You’re dealing with a criminal. We obviously thought we had enough that we obtained a search warrant,” said Cleveland Police Chief Deputy Ed Tomba.
Cleveland Police 1st District Commander Thomas McCartney said the search proved to be frustrating.
“We had our hopes up, everyone had their hopes up, but the other side of the coin is, we still hope for the family, maybe somewhere a girl is still alive,” McCartney said.
“I really feel bad for (Berry’s family). I’ve lost a lot of sleep just knowing that maybe her body is over there,” said neighbor Judy Rogers. “I just wish we could get some kind of closure to know where she’s at.”
Investigators are making no apologies for the time and money spent in this search. CPD said it’s now up to the prosecutor to decide if Robert Wolford, 25, will face additional prison time for giving a false lead.
Tomba told Fox 8 News reporter Bill Sheil that Wolford, an inmate from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, was at the dig site in the early morning hours of Friday. Tomba also said that Wolford was adamant that the location was the spot where Berry’s body was buried. It was also the same location where Wolford stabbed a homeless man to death in 2007.
A search was launched Thursday after Wolford, of Cleveland, sent law enforcement a letter indicating that he knew the location of Berry’s body. According to authorities, the tip that Wolford had provided was deemed “credible.”
On Wednesday, Cynthia Conner witnessed Wolford being escorted to the vacant lot.
“He was in an orange jumpsuit, shackled and handcuffed. They took him out of the car, and he was pointing around in the lot and stuff,” said Conner.
Hours later, crews established a perimeter to begin their dig.
“We never close these cases; they remain open until they’re solved,” Special Agent Vicki Anderson, with the Cleveland Division of the FBI, said of Berry’s case and those like it. “So any tip that comes in, whether it’s here in Cleveland or anywhere in the nation, we definitely follow up on it.”
Berry disappeared without a trace on April 21, 2003, one day before her 17th birthday.
She left work at the Burger King at West 110th Street and Lorain Avenue, and was heading home to celebrate her birthday, but never made it.
Her family has worked to keep the case in the public eye, holding out hope for some answers.
Berry’s mother passed away in 2006, taking all of the unanswered questions to the grave.
Those who knew her and what she endured after her daughter’s disappearance maintain she died of a broken heart.
– Fox 8 News reporters Jack Shea, Bill Sheil, Dave Nethers and Emily Valdez and FOX8.com reporters Dan Jovic and Jessica Dabrowski contributed to this report.
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