Jacque Waller's purse among items found in roadside search

Sunday, November 6, 2011
Police continued their search for evidence Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 in the area where Jacque Waller's car was found along the southbound lanes of Interstate 55 near the 104 mile marker. (Fred Lynch)

Investigators found Jacque Waller's purse and some of its contents during a search linked to her disappearance alongside southbound Interstate 55 Thursday and Friday, Waller's father confirmed Friday.

On Saturday, volunteers searched more areas in Cape Girardeau County but found nothing.

Stan Rawson said authorities informed him of finding his daughter's personal belongings, as well as her tattered purse, which had apparently been shredded by mowing equipment.

"It was all chopped up," Rawson said of Waller's purse in an on-the-record interview.

Jackson police, Cape Girardeau County sheriff's deputies and a member of the FBI's Evidence Response Team canvassed the area Thursday and Friday for items that could be linked to Waller's disappearance. Authorities collected and photographed evidence they had flagged Thursday afternoon during their search.

The flagged items were associated with Waller's disappearance, said Lt. David James with the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. James declined to comment on the importance of the evidence.

Roughly a dozen law enforcement officials combed the area Friday by vigorously turning over brush with rakes and surveying the area with metal detectors. Around 9:30 a.m. Friday, authorities began expanding the search area southward, with six Jackson police officers walking beyond the previously searched area with metal detectors and orange evidence flags.

The search on the southbound side of Interstate 55 concluded Friday, said Lt. Rodney Barnes of the Jackson Police Department.

Authorities will also search the northbound side of the interstate, FBI Evidence Response Team member Brian Ritter said, noting that he was unsure when that search will begin.

The search took place where authorities found Waller's SUV with a flat tire after she disappeared. The area was canvassed again because it was mowed after the warm-weather season when grass was tall, Jackson police chief James Humphrey said. The area had been searched after the disappearance, but this was the first opportunity police had to look over the area after a recent mowing, Humphreys said. Humphreys said he was unsure when the area was mowed.

The area had last been searched in late June or early July, James said.

A staff member with the Missouri Department of Transportation in Sikeston couldn't provide an exact date the area was mowed but said it would have been within the last two weeks. MoDOT said the area is mowed four times a year.

When asked if authorities had received a tip to search the area, Barnes declined to comment.

Waller disappeared June 1. Her estranged husband, Clay Waller, has been named as a suspect in her disappearance, and Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle has filed papers saying he anticipates a murder charge in the case.

Clay Waller is in federal custody after pleading guilty to making an Internet threat against Jacque Waller's sister, who has custody of the couple's triplets.

A judge is set to consider whether Swingle can preserve testimony from Clay Waller's father, purportedly saying that Clay Waller broke Jacque Waller's neck and buried her in an undisclosed location. A hearing on the matter is coming up Nov. 18.

Clay Waller has repeatedly denied any involvement in the disappearance of Jacque Waller. Police say Clay Waller was the last person to see her before her SUV was found.

A law enforcement-directed search for Jacque Waller was held Saturday. Around 65 people including Jacque Waller's family members, community volunteers and a team from the CUE Center for Missing Persons with six cadaver dogs searched three areas. Searchers gathered in a chilly, fog-filled Cape County Park South around 8 a.m. and were dispatched to an area between the park and Interstate 55, an area near Snake Hill in Cape Girardeau and property near Fruitland.

Jacque Waller's sister, Cheryl Brenneke, stayed at a shelter at the park for most of the day while the search was ongoing. Her husband Bob, brother Rob Rawson and sister-in-law Nancy participated in the search.

"I can't believe how many people are here," she said, as searchers departed to their assigned locations Saturday morning. "It makes me feel very blessed."

The search was headed by Bobby Sherrill, a childhood friend of Jacque Waller. Sherrill said nothing was found in any of the areas Saturday.

Staff writer Erin Ragan contributed to this report.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Fruitland, MO

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