Remains found in search for missing girls
OREGON CITY, Oregon (CNN) -- Investigators searching for two missing Oregon teenagers made a grim discovery Saturday on the property of Ward Weaver, an Oregon City man who has said police consider him a suspect in the case.
Authorities found one set of human remains in an outbuilding behind Weaver's rental home, said Oregon City Police Chief Gordon Huiras.
The remains have been turned over to the medical examiner's office, but Huiras said it could be several days before identification can be made. It's unclear how long the remains had been in the shed.
Investigators continued to search the property, and plan to dig up a concrete slab that Weaver poured on the property after the two girls, Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis disappeared, said Charlie Mathews, special agent in charge of the FBI's Portland office.
Mathews said investigators plan to bring in underground imaging equipment on Sunday.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said Weaver, who is jailed on unrelated rape charges, is aware of Saturday's search, and she also disclosed that investigators had already searched the property "early on" in their probe. Weaver's home is located near the apartment complex where the two girls lived.
KPTV reported that some family members had been waiting for news outside of the house, but authorities told them to leave the site.
The search, which began Saturday morning, involves about 40 agents from the FBI and state and local police, as well as three search dogs, Steele said. She said law enforcement officials obtained "legal authority" to conduct the search Friday night, but she would not say if they had gotten a search warrant.
"The investigation has proceeded to a point where the investigators had what they needed to get the legal authority to do the search," she said. "We'll be searching every inch of the property over the course of the next few days."
Prior to the search, a fence was put up around the property, and two tents were erected in the yard.
"The investigation, as well as the search itself, is certainly very sensitive, and it's important to protect the investigation and aspects of the investigation if this case goes to prosecution, as well as to protect any evidence that may be in the area," Steele said.
Pond and Gaddis, both 13 at the time, vanished two months apart on their way to school. Pond was last seen walking outside her apartment January 9. Gaddis disappeared March 8.
Investigators believe the girls, who were friends, were taken by the same person.
"Our No. 1 goal is to bring Ashley and Miranda home. Our No. 2 goal is to make sure whoever is responsible for their disappearances is caught and convicted," Steele said.
Weaver, who has denied any involvement in the disappearances of the girls, has said he is considered a suspect in case. However, both local law enforcement officials and the FBI are not characterizing him as a suspect.
"The FBI deals in the term subject, not suspect," Steele said. "For us to name somebody as a subject, they have to be charged. And in this case, there has been no one who has been charged in the disappearance of Ashley or Miranda."
Weaver remains in the Clackamas County Jail on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault, unrelated to the abductions. He pleaded not guilty this week and is being held on $1 million bond.
Greg Horner, Clackamas County's chief deputy attorney, said Weaver knew the 19-year-old he is accused of raping and abusing.
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