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FBI searches Kansas field for homicide victim

Jennifer Long has been missing since January 1998.
Jennifer Long has been missing since January 1998.

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WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) -- FBI agents in protective suits were searching Wednesday in a field south of Wichita, Kansas, for the body of a Kansas City, Missouri, girl who vanished four years ago.

Agents wore the protective clothing as a precaution because the search area included a septic tank overflow.

FBI spokesman identified the body agents sought as that of Jennifer Long, who was 16 at the time of her January 1998 disappearance. Wesley Purkey, already in a Kansas prison for another killing, was charged last year with Long's death, Lanza said.

"The investigation just led us to that property," he said. "We were down there looking for more evidence."

Purkey, a habitual offender who had been paroled in 1997, was convicted of killing an 80-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman in October 1998 -- months after Jennifer Long disappeared after skipping classes at her high school.

Purkey worked several construction jobs between his parole and September 1998, when he took a job with a plumbing company. A month later, he was sent to Mary Ruth Bales' home to fix a leaking faucet. He took $90 from her to buy supplies, but bought crack cocaine instead.

FBI agents sifted through the soil of a Kansas farm looking for Long's remains Wednesday.
FBI agents sifted through the soil of a Kansas farm looking for Long's remains Wednesday.

High from smoking the crack, Purkey returned the house, where he robbed the woman and beat her to death with a claw hammer.

The victim's family settled a lawsuit with the plumbing company, collecting $500,000 for negligent hiring, according to the law firm that represented the family.

Purkey reportedly cut a deal during the Bales investigation that he would help authorities with the Long case if he could be housed at a federal prison instead of a Kansas prison. Armed with details Purkey provided about the Long case, authorities charged him with her death in October 2001, although her body has not been recovered.

Purkey was returned to prison in Kansas, authorities said.

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