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November 13, 2012

Beach ground search for Caleigh set for today

A group that promotes the awareness of missing children’s cases will be working with law enforcement officials and others in a renewed search for Caleigh Harrison today — five days after a tattered pair of pink children’s pants similar to the ones the 21/2-year-old toddler wore on the day of her disappearance was found on Gloucester’s Good Harbor Beach.

Maureen Flatley of Essex, a volunteer with Mission for the Missing, a Boston-based nonprofit, is organizing the search with law enforcement officials, dog teams, and a state forensic anthropologist. The plan, Flatley said, is to conduct a land search in the area of the beach today, beginning at 10:30 a.m. — a time purposefully set to coincide with the 10:45 high tide.

“The way we plan to work it is to follow the tide out,” Flatley told the Times Tuesday. “So we’ll start at the highest point and work our way out. We’ll certainly be looking for any fragments of anything that was connected to her, whether clothing or remains.”

At least six teams, with one search dog and three people per team will span out along the beach, Flatley said, the dogs zeroing in on possibly related scents and the volunteers combing the areas where the dogs pause.

The human searchers are professionally trained and voluntarily conduct searches with the dogs through Mission for the Missing.

Because the search is based on following the dogs’ intuition, Mission for the Missing will deploy only volunteers that are trained and part of the group. And Flatley said the law enforcement officials on hand, including a state forensic anthropologist and Rockport Police Officer Daniel Mahoney, will help ensure the search is properly conducted.

“At least in this first part, we want to keep it kind of clear of people who aren’t trained,” Flatley said. “We want to make sure that everything is cataloged appropriately, handled appropriately and conserved appropriately.”

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