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Search in S. Illinois ‘area of interest' precedes court date for Clay Waller
The Waller triplets turned 7 Sunday, as volunteers again searched another secluded spot for their missing mother. Their father, meanwhile, remained incarcerated awaiting a court date this week -- and eventually a trial -- on charges that he killed her and disposed of the body.
More than 16 months after the disappearance of Jacque Sue Waller, her loved ones continue to cling to hope, however diminished, that her remains will be found and offer some sense of closure. Investigators have similar hopes, but thoseº hinge on their belief that the body will offer key evidence that connects Clay Waller to the crime.
"It never gets any easier," said Ruby Rawson, Jacque's mother. "She's on our minds daily -- every time we see her picture or her children ask us questions. The children had such a great time over the weekend. It breaks our hearts that she wasn't here to see it."
Rawson expressed appreciation to those who spent a portion of their time Sunday once again looking for her daughter, who was last seen publicly on June 1, 2011. At the request of Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's office, search and rescue teams from Scott County, Cape Girardeau County and the Little Egypt Search and Rescue Team combed a section of Southern Illinois' vast Devil's Island Wildlife Management Area near McClure.
James on Wednesday said the location was an "area of interest" because it was isolated and because Waller was known to have a boat. Choosing his words carefully, James said information led them to that spot but added that the data was suggestive and it never has been suggested that her body was certainly there.
"It's another one of those spots that we just want to eliminate," James said.
Since Jacque Waller seemingly vanished, volunteers have covered an estimated 14,000 acres in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, including ponds, rivers and the Diversion Channel.
Tips that once flowed in have dried up, but one will still occasionally come in, he said. New crimes pull authorities away, James said, but they will investigate all the way up to Clay Waller's trial, which is estimated to be set for sometime this spring.
"It's constantly on our minds," James said. "What did we miss? Who didn't we talk to? (For) those we did talk to: What questions didn't we ask? It's not something that we just give up on."
As for the defendant, Clay Waller on Wednesday was being held at the county jail in Jackson, where he has been temporarily released from federal custody and where he is serving time for making threats on the Internet to Jacque's sister. At 9 a.m. Monday, Waller is set to be back before Judge Benjamin Lewis for a case review.
Waller pleaded not guilty in August to charges of first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence -- one that claims he disposed of carpet that held Jacque's blood, the other for allegedly disposing of her body. Prosecutors say he killed his wife during a fight over a pending divorce.
One motion expected to be addressed was filed by public defender Chris Davis, who has asked that the high-profile case be moved to another county to escape an area that saw much media coverage in the days and weeks after the victim disappeared. Attempts to reach Davis and Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney Morley Swingle on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
With the trial not expected to begin until spring at the earliest, there may be the occasional search and routine court matters. Birthdays, like the one last Sunday, will pass as well.
"They celebrated for two days," Rawson said of her grandchildren. "There were families and cousins. Their half-brother J.C. stopped by. They're pretty happy children."
100 Court St., Jackson, MO