The search to find the remains of a missing Williamsburg woman, who disappeared in February, may finally be over.
A Williamsburg man, who has confessed to police about taking part in Laura Anderson’s murder, lead authorities Thursday afternoon to a site in southern Whitley County near Dal Road, where he said the body was buried.
In addition, three cadaver dogs alerted Thursday evening to the presence of remains at that location.
“What we are seeing is definitely consistent with where a body has been or could be,” said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird. “It is an area of interest. I feel better about it than any other area we have been in. We are seeing things that are consistent with his statement.”
Initially, one of the first officers on the scene observed what he thought were human remains, but Bird said shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday that officials now aren’t absolutely positive of that.
He noted that the elements, including mud, darkness and rain have been working against investigators, who have brought in searchlights and other equipment to aid search efforts. The item the officer saw may now be under mud or simply not visible in the darkness.
Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley is also on the scene helping to search for the remains.
The spot where the body was reportedly buried is located in a creek bed/four-wheeler path, and police believe the remains may have been burned prior to being placed in a shallow grave, Bird said.
Police haven’t ruled out the possibility that the remains may have been washed further down the creek bed during spring flooding.
“I feel good about this spot. I feel better about this spot than any spot we have been in,” Bird said.
In March, police conducted an extensive ground search near Pilot Travel Center in Williamsburg where family members last reported seeing Anderson. A water search was also done along the Cumberland River, but yielded no clues.
Last week, police and search and rescue workers searched near Savoy Bridge, where suspect Joseph Samuel James Bauer initially told police the body had been dumped. That search turned up one item that police haven’t disclosed in addition to the discovery of a bone, but police aren’t sure whether it is human. It has been sent for testing.
Anderson was reportedly last seen alive about 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 11, on Ky. 92W near Pilot Travel Center.
Anderson exited a family member’s vehicle carrying a bag of clothes after an argument that day with family members and a boyfriend.
Police believe that Anderson died either late that evening or early the next morning, and that her killing was drug related.
Tuesday afternoon, Bird charged Bauer, 33, with complicity to commit murder, complicity to commit tampering with physical evidence, complicity to commit first-degree robbery and complicity to being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun.
Bauer was already incarcerated in the Whitley County Detention Center on unrelated charges when he was charged in connection with Anderson’s killing.
According to his arrest citation, on Feb. 11 Bauer along with others caused Anderson’s death by shooting her. Then Bauer, who was acting with others, removed jewelry from her and disposed of her body. At the time, Bauer was a convicted felon.
“We know there are two other individuals involved,” Bird added.
Whitley District Judge Cathy Prewitt entered a not guilty plea for Bauer during his arraignment early Thursday afternoon.
She set a $1 million cash bond for Bauer, appointed the public advocate’s office to represent him, and set a Sept. 10 preliminary hearing in his case.
Around Aug. 27, Bauer contacted police claiming to have information about Anderson’s disappearance.
Bauer was never a suspect in the case until he contacted police, Bird said.
“All he wanted to do was provide information. He never asked to get out of jail or a reduction in charges or anything. He began giving us information on the case,” Bird said.
“Without going into detail, the information that he provided was consistent with early information that we had. It started out as a missing person case, but it very quickly turned in the direction of a homicide case.”
Bird said that Bauer was able to provide police with much of the information they already had, but in greater detail. Police have been able to corroborate about 90 percent of the information that Bauer gave them.
Bird said that Williamsburg police spent much of the day Thursday at the FBI field office in London where FBI forensic teams from London and Louisville processed Bauer’s 1998 Z-71 pick-up truck.
“It was a typical forensic examination. It was very methodical. They covered a lot,” Bird said. “Through that forensic exam of the truck, we learned that there were some things that weren’t quite adding up sort to speak about Bauer’s confession.”
Police went back to the jail and interviewed Bauer again.
“His story is consistent on how it happened, his involvement and how she was killed. The only thing that his story has not been consistent on is the location of the body. After a few minutes, he said I will take you and show you, and he brought us here,” Bird said. “When we got here, he showed us an area.”
Bird said that Bauer hasn’t told them why he originally gave police a false location where the body was dumped.
“The only thing I can figure is that sometimes it is hard for a suspect in cases like this to get everything out there. Telling law enforcement where a body is at is a hard thing to do,” Bird said.
“I’m sure it was difficult for him to get it off his chest and he did. He ultimately did the right thing.”
Bird said he doesn’t think Anderson’s family is surprised at this point that she isn’t alive.
“According to the family, Laura was somebody, who even when she would get mad, she would always call. She would always come back home. She would always contact somebody in the family and she hasn’t done that in seven months,” Bird said. “I think they expected this, but when the reality hits, it is always hard for the family. I talked to the mother yesterday morning. She was very upset. I talked to her today by phone and she was still upset and rightfully so.”