More than 100 searchers logged more than 2,400 hours this weekend in the ongoing search for missing second-year College student Hannah Graham. The search, conducted by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, spanned an eight-mile radius surrounding the Downtown Mall — Graham’s last known location before he disappearance early in the morning Sept. 13.
Woolpert Inc., a West-Virginia based aerial mapping and photography company, donated the use of a plane equipped with high definition imagery equipment for searches Saturday and Sunday.
VDEM Public Affairs Director Dawn Eischen said weekend efforts covered 70 percent of the proposed search area, with teams continuing this week to cover the remaining 30 percent.
VDEM spokesperson David Watson said the department has no plans to wrap up the search until Graham is found.
“They will continue to look until they find her and as long as they have leads,” Watson said.
Watson said the nature of the search has changed since the community search conducted two weeks ago. Whereas efforts immediately following Graham’s disappearance were focused on finding a missing person, search teams are now focused on finding evidence, Watson said. Specially trained search officials are using canines to search outdoor areas.
“It’s not the measures you would use for a kid who has run off, or an elderly person,” Watson said.
Watson said there are no plans to institute another community search at this time due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.
“They are looking for things they weren’t looking for in the community search,” he said. “Folks might unknowingly disturb evidence.”
Graham’s parents addressed to the public this weekend pleading anyone with information to come forward. Sue Graham read from a prepared statement — the first time she has spoken publicly since her daughter's disappearance.
“An individual has been charged with the abduction of our beloved daughter Hannah," Sue Graham said. "However, despite extensive search efforts, no trace of Hannah has been found since she disappeared in the early hours of Saturday, September 13, now more than three weeks ago.”
Graham thanked professional search teams and community members for their assistance in the ongoing effort to find Hannah. Through tears, she appealed to individuals with knowledge of her daughter’s location.
“Somebody listening to me today either knows where Hannah is, or knows someone who has that information," she said. "We appeal to you to come forward and tell us where Hannah can be found. Please, please, please help end this nightmare for all of us. Please help us to bring Hannah home.”