MINERVA - State Police have begun work on an empty half-acre lot off Wilson Road to uncover the remains of June Collard, who was allegedly killed by her husband here 30 years ago.
Law enforcement officials are focusing their efforts on the site at 76 Wilson Road after a statement from Thomas Anthony Collard, age 62, revealed the supposed location of June's body.
Collard, formerly a resident of Olmstedville and now living in Samson, Ala. for the past 16 years, confessed to killing his wife in November 1980 and dumping her lifeless body out a kitchen window into a hole dug for a septic system.
He then covered the hole until spring when, his statement said, he burned brush in the hole, dumped some lime over the remains, bulldozed the hole, and built an addition to his house over it to conceal it.
The home at 76 Wilson Road has since burned down, and the site is littered with garbage and debris.
Collard has been arrested under the charge of second degree murder and is incarcerated at Essex County Jail until his case is presented to a grand jury.
Investigator Scott Heggelke and Lieutenant Patrick Ryan of State Police Troop B in Ray Brook said Aug. 2 that police are searching for any signs of June's remains. Roughly 15 troopers and investigators joined members of the Minerva Highway Department to begin work at the sight Monday morning.
"We have had outstanding assistance and are making progress," said Heggelke. "We are hoping to establish the footprint of the house that once stood here and go from there."
Complicating the search, officials said, is the household waste, junk metal and other garbage littering the site.
"The terrain we are working with is very difficult," Ryan said.
Crews removed truck loads of garbage this week before breaking ground Monday. They will then begin the long process of delicately screening dirt in search of 30-year-old evidence.
"If this is indeed the site of the murder, we are very optimistic that we will find something," said Heggelke.
District Attorney Kristy Sprague said she is confident she will have a case and even a conviction without a body, but hopes the search is successful.
"We will continue with grand jury proceedings with or without a body," she said. "I hope for the family, however, we can get a body back to them for a proper burial."
Minerva officials said they are pleased to see this case approach the possibility of closure after 30 years.
"It has been in the back of everyone's minds since it happened," said Highway Superintendent Bruce McGinn. "Minerva residents are all very curious about the investigation and hope to find some sort of answers."