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Dig ends in search for woman
Next step: testing nearly 300 pounds of dirt for clues.
By REBECCA CATALANELLO, Times Staff Writer
Published October 23, 2007
The backyard excavation at 3908 W Vasconia St. in South Tampa turned up no obvious evidence regarding the disappearance of Sandra Hamby Prince. But USF anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle, center, and her team will analyze soil samples.
[Melissa Lyttle | Times]
Know where Sandra Prince is? Call Detective Michael Pridemore at (813) 989-7110.
TAMPA - After five days of burrowing under a South Tampa home for evidence of a missing woman, Temple Terrace police ended their search Monday.
Investigators pulled about 295 pounds of soil from beneath 3908 W Vasconia St. since Oct. 17, when they secured a search warrant to collect evidence there in connection with the disappearance of Sandra Hamby Prince.
Prince, who was 59 when she vanished, was reported missing Jan. 3, 2006, by a neighbor. The last time anyone remembers seeing Prince was Dec. 30, 2005, according to police.
Archeologists from the University of South Florida will test the soil collected in 59 tubes, each 5 feet in length, over at least the next 30 days, Temple Terrace police spokesman Mike Dunn said. Each tube weighs roughly 5 pounds.
Detectives did not locate any evidence obvious to the naked eye, Dunn said. But they aren't ruling anything out until the soil tests are completed and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement processes evidence as well.
"I don't think anyone really knew what to expect," Dunn said. "The hope was that we would find something. And we don't know yet whether we have or not."
Prince, a social worker who helped found the Agency for Community Treatment Services Inc. more than 30 years ago, was an intensely private person, a fact that has complicated the investigation into her whereabouts.
When police first responded to her house almost two years ago, they found her blood in the trunk of her car, her cell phone on the counter and her door unlocked.
Nine months into their investigation, investigators named Tampa contractor Earl Pippin III a "person of interest" in Prince's disappearance. Pippin and Prince dated for five years while he was married, police said, and Prince named Pippin the sole beneficiary to her estate.
Though police haven't said why they are searching that location, records show Pippin built the house. An inspector signed off on a newly laid concrete slab there days after Prince vanished.
Paul Sisco, attorney for Pippin, said it isn't surprising police left the Vasconia Street house Monday without anything conclusive. "There was never anything to find back there," Sisco said, calling the effort "an utter waste of time."
Dunn said the Police Department will repair damage done to the two-story rental during the dig. Concrete will be poured into the numerous holes that have been dug underneath the foundation from the back of the house toward the front.
Sisco noted police did not plan a news conference as they wrapped up the dig. He contrasted that with the news conference the agency held when it first named Pippin a person of interest.
"They certainly like to throw media parties when they want to disparage a person's name," he said, "but not when it's time to reveal results of investigation inconsistent with their guess."
Police said the dig was the result of a culmination of 142 tips. There is an $80,000 reward for information leading to Prince's whereabouts. Anyone with information about Prince is asked to call Detective Michael Pridemore at 813 989-7110.