DISCOVERY OF BODIES RAISES MORE QUESTIONS
The worst fears of Miranda Gaddis' and Ashley Pond's families, and of all Oregonians, were confirmed this past weekend with the discovery of two bodies buried in Ward Weaver's yard in Oregon City.
DISCOVERY OF the bodies of the two seventh-graders brings closure to a mystery that has drawn national attention since the neighbor girls disappeared earlier this year one in January and the other in March. But closure for the families, eight months into the investigation, also should bring questions from the public. Namely, what took law enforcement so long to act on the self-proclaimed "prime suspect.''
Weaver knew both girls and reportedly had an unusually close relationship with Ashley Pond, who a year ago had accused him of molesting her. Five months ago one of Weaver's five ex-wives reportedly suggested to the FBI that they might want to check under a new slab of concrete behind his house. Months ago a search dog supposedly had shown some interest in the new concrete slab. Yet, no search warrants were obtained.
IN EARLY JULY Weaver told reporters he was considered the prime suspect but denied any involvement in the girls' disappearance. He was more than willing to go on camera and deny any involvement in the case. He fit the FBI's own profile of who the abductor might be and apparently failed a lie detector test. Still, no warrant to search his property.
Nothing seemed to break in the case until a couple of weeks ago when Weaver was charged with raping his son's girlfriend. At that time the son, Francis Weaver, told investigators his dad had admitted killing the girls. Still, no search warrants.
It wasn't until a relative of one of the girls placed a sign on the slab of concrete that said "Dig me up'' that the Weaver property appeared to generate much interest.
Finally, this past Friday and with Ward Weaver in jail on the unrelated rape charge, police got a search warrant as well as written permission from Weaver to search the property.
SOME CITIZENS WHO had gathered outside Weaver's house Saturday after it was confirmed human remains had been found, were outraged that the investigation had taken so long to focus on Weaver. Law enforcement officials reasoned that the investigation was following a necessary course to make sure due process was followed.
Due process is necessary. Litigation and legal technicalities have forced police to be cautious. But search warrants are issued all the time for much less serious offenses. The slab of concrete should have raised enough suspicions that the case to search Weaver's property should have been made months before now and before another alleged attack occurred.
Closure has finally come to the families, and Ward Weaver is the prime suspect. But something seems amiss in law enforcement's handling of this case.