Rain on Thursday halted the excavation of an East Side landfill where officials have been searching this week for evidence in the disappearance of an Arizona infant. “The excavation has been suspended for the day because of the inclement weather,” said San Antonio Police Department spokeswoman Sandy Gutierrez. “But we hope to resume Friday.” Police Chief William McManus said at a news conference Tuesday that the landfill was targeted because it’s tied to a trash bin at a hotel on San Pedro Avenue where Elizabeth Johnson, 23, claimed to have suffocated Gabriel Johnson, placed him in a diaper bag and disposed of his body.
Police continue to investigate a separate missing person case on the 9-month-old because Johnson also claimed she gave him to a couple in a San Antonio park.
Private companies have donated more than $100,000 worth of personnel, equipment and services for the excavation, which began at the Tessman Road Landfill Tuesday. It will take several more days to remove a total of 1.8 million cubic feet of debris that officials have estimated sits atop a layer where police believe the baby’s remains or evidence could be.
The particular section of the landfill has been cordoned off since Dec. 27, the day Johnson allegedly sent a text message to Gabriel’s father, Logan McQueary, saying she killed the boy.
Vicky Waddy, a spokeswoman for Zachry Construction Corp., said her company’s work has also temporarily halted at the site, but five employees have been operating an excavator and three dump trucks in the dig since Tuesday.
She estimated the cost of the employees’ work, which includes loading dump trucks with debris and unloading the dump trucks at another section of the landfill, is $30,000. But that amount could change if rain continues to fall, complicating the operation.
“The problem isn’t just the rain coming down, but whether there’s a stable foundation for our excavator,” she said.
A spokesman for Yantis Co. said a crew is on standby to help police in the second phase of the landfill operation, which includes sifting through debris for evidence. That process, which costs an estimated $30,000, will begin once the landfill site has been excavated to 45 feet, police said.
Yantis employees will then use equipment, including two excavators, to move the debris to a nearby secure site, which police have declined to disclose, to allow for the arduous process of searching through the trash. Police will use search teams and cadaver dogs, McManus said.
“Right now, we’re waiting for the Zachry crews to finish their part,” said Yantis spokesman Paul Basaldua. “We hope to start sometime next week, pending weather. If it continues to rain, it’s harder to sift through that material because it becomes more compacted and claylike.”
Meanwhile, Johnson, who was arrested in Florida, remains jailed in Arizona on charges of kidnapping, custodial interference and child abuse.
Donations in search for baby
A number of private companies are donating personnel, equipment and services in the landfill excavation and search for missing baby Gabriel Johnson, ensuring taxpayer dollars are not required to cover costs that are estimated to be well above $100,000.
- Zachry Construction Corp.
- Yantis Co.
- M&M Contracting
- Holt Construction
- United Site Services
- Home Depot
- Bexar County Junior Livestock
- Martinez Social Club