B y Jaime Thomas
A search effort with dogs for Jonathan Schaff, who has been missing for about seven weeks, turned up no evidence last Wednesday.
Seven New York State Police canine units, with one to two officers per dog, along with Granville Police searched an area of the Mettawee River in West Pawlet, Vt., and Granville from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Chief Ernie Bassett said the canines are cadaver dogs that are trained to find deceased bodies. They searched both sides of the river along the stretch from Rathbun Avenue to Loomis Trucking. However, conditions were less than ideal Wednesday with temperatures well below freezing and gusty, bitter wind. Much of the river and bank was frozen.
“The conditions were still fairly poor,” Bassett said. But he said the experts with the dogs thought it would be worth it to conduct a search before all the snow melts; additionally, two recent warm days broke open the ice on the river.
“Once it melts a little and the ice goes away we’ll probably do it again,” he said. Vermont authorities, who are still in charge of the case, were also on scene.
On Friday, Vermont State Police and a SCUBA team returned to the Mettowee River behind Loomis Trucking from about 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This time, an excavator was digging and moving snow from a pond-like area adjacent to the river. Divers, who did not go into the water, also probed the area with instruments.
Lieutenant Chuck Cacciatore said there were multiple canine hits on the area where police were moving debris, but nothing was located. About 25 total law enforcement members were on scene on Friday, working in very cold and windy weather.
At this point, police on both sides of the border are continuing to interview those who might have information about 23-year-old Schaff’s disappearance until they’re able to physically search again.
“The next step is waiting for the spring thaw,” Cacciatore said.
Schaff, a Fair Haven resident, has not been seen since the early hours of Jan. 18, when he kept walking past a couple he was with and disappeared on Route 149 near the Vermont border following a bar fight.
All that showed up after the initial search was Schaff’s cellphone in an abandoned vehicle located at Loomis Trucking on State Route 149 in Vermont, an area where a number of abandoned cars and trucks are parked.
The area where the cellphone was found is the same location Schaff was walking when he disappeared.
Since then, a Vermont National Guard helicopter flew over the area but turned up nothing; two weeks ago, the New York State Police did a helicopter flyover as well, but Bassett said high snow made it difficult to spot anything.
Anyone with any information can call Granville police at 642-1414 or Vermont State Police at 802-773-9101. Anonymous tips can be submitted by sending a text to “CRIMES” (274637) with keyword: VTIPS.