K9 units search for possible gravesite in Punta Gorda cold case

Published: January 19, 2019 6:39 PM EST
Updated: January 22, 2019 4:08 AM EST

Working to bring closure to a 24-year-old case in Charlotte County, K9 units are searching 12 acres for a woman who was considered missing, and now her search has turned into a murder investigation.

The police dogs and investigators are searching for Christine Flahive who disappeared from Punta Gorda in 1995.

“I lost my daughter two years ago, and it’s a heart breaker every day,” said David Flint of Punta Gorda.

The heartache of losing someone you love, only inflamed by mystery of never knowing what happened or where they are.

“At least in a car wreck, I knew where my daughter was,” Flint said. “But to not know where she is, I just can’t imagine living that one.”

Mike Hadsell is leading the K9 search team to find Flahive.

We’re trying to get there as fast as we can before they’re all disintegrated,” Hadsell said.

His team’s mobile lab is set up on the land near where a tipster said Flahive was seen before she disappeared.

Cadaver dogs are equipped with GPS trackers sending back real-time data.

“They’re looking for any odor of human remains,” Hadsell said. In a case this old, we’re looking for vegetation changes, looking for changes in the soil, things that would indicate that a clandestine grave was there.”

Any site could be Flahive’s, so the investigators test the soil.

“It turns a bright color, red or pink,” Hadsell said. “And if it does then we know that we have a gravesite that’s active.”

If the tests get positive results, the team goes back to the site and dig.

“If we get to where we’re finding bones then the forensic team takes over when it becomes a crime scene,” Hadsell said.

For this team, a new lead and new technology means a new chance to give a family like Flahive’s closure.

“To be honest with you, if you murdered someone, dumped them out in the woods somewhere, you had a really good chance no one would was ever gonna find them,” Hadsell said. “And that’s just terrible, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to get better at it.”