Dig ends without finding body

Temple Terrace police say they developed some leads in the three-week excavation in South Tampa.

Published January 24, 2008

TAMPA - She's not there.

Temple Terrace police broke the news Wednesday morning that they were leaving a South Tampa house after two weeks searching for the body of Sandra Prince.

The development brought groans of disappointment from Prince's friends, who are eager for answers about the social worker's disappearance.

Police returned to 3908 W Vasconia St. on Jan. 10, after dirt samples they found during a $21,000 dig in October indicated the possibility of human remains. The search concluded Tuesday, they said.

"I was so sure this would be where they found her," said Angie Turner, owner of Ahjaleah's Boutique, a Carrollwood dress shop Prince frequented before she vanished around New Year's Day 2006. "I am not believing this."

Police still have hope of solving the case.

Spokesman Michael Dunn said police developed "other investigative leads" during the execution of a search warrant that were being "actively pursued by detectives."

Dunn said he could not provide details because it is an active case. Investigators said only that they found no human remains, but declined comment about whether they located any other evidence.

A judge, meanwhile, ordered the Vasconia Street search warrant sealed "until the release of discovery to the defense upon request or until further order of the court." The order was signed Jan. 9, prior to the warrant being executed, and publicly filed late Tuesday.

Typically, a search warrant explains why police think searching a property is justified. It also lists what, if anything, detectives found in the process.

Dunn said detectives asked a judge to prohibit public access to the warrant on the advice of the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

Prince, co-founder of the Agency for Community Treatment Services, was reported missing Jan. 3, 2006, by neighbors.

Police responding to her Moffat Place home in Temple Terrace found blood in the trunk of her parked car and traces of blood in her garage, which was parked. ATM surveillance video shows a masked man withdrawing $800 from Prince's accounts on Dec. 30 and 31, 2005.

Police named Earl C. Pippin III a "person of interest" in Prince's disappearance, saying he had a romantic relationship with Prince and was the sole beneficiary of her estate.

A contractor, Pippin built the Vasconia house in 2006. Records show a city inspector signed off on a newly poured concrete foundation three days after Prince was reported missing.

Paul Sisco, Pippin's attorney, maintains his client has nothing to do with Prince's disappearance. Sisco predicted earlier this month that investigators would find no evidence at the house.

On Wednesday morning, the former prosecutor kept his comments brief: "Obviously, I'm not surprised," Sisco said. "I said my piece. I really have no further comment about it."

Back at Vasconia Street, the owner of the property said he was consulting an attorney to seek compensation for lost rent.

Timothy McLeod and his wife built the 3,200-square-foot home as an investment. The October dig scared off potential buyers and a family of renters from the home, he said.

While McLeod said he worries about perception and stigma discouraging potential buyers, Wednesday's news offered hope. "Maybe now that they haven't found anything, is that stigma going to go away?" he asked aloud. "It's hard to say."

To help matters along, the McLeods erected a sign at the curb that says it all: "THEY FOUND NOTHING."

"You hear, 'Hey, there's a dead body in there,' and that's all you hear," McLeod said. "Well, now they need to know that there wasn't."

Dunn, the Temple Terrace spokesman, said the department doesn't yet have a cost estimate for the most recent dig.

Temple Terrace police spent about 500 hours at the residence this time around, he said.

Also assisting were the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida.

There is an $80,000 reward for information leading to Prince's whereabouts. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Michael Pridemore at (813) 989-7118.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or rcatalanello@sptimes.com.