A tarp-covered clearing in an otherwise overgrown area of City Park has attracted the attention of three different teams of police dogs searching for a teacher who has been missing for more than a month, but all investigators have been able to find under the earth is discarded cooking oil, officials said Friday.
The first dogs to find the location belonged to a private team during initial searches for missing teacher Terrilynn Monnette about four weeks ago, NOPD Special Operations Division Commander John Thomas told the department leadership during their weekly meeting Friday. NOPD then requested the assistance of a police dog team from St. Charles Parish, and those dogs alerted to the exact same spot, Thomas said.
The area is totally cleared of any plants, though it is completely surrounded by weeds, Thomas said. It’s marked by a small black tarp, and the ground appears as though it had recently been turned over, he said. Investigators believe someone may have been living there.
When investigators from the coroner’s office dug up the spot, however, all they found was a repository of cooking grease that had been poured into the earth there, Thomas said. Superintendent Ronal Serpas asked Thomas if trained dogs are known to mistake grease for bodies, and Thomas said no — they are actually supposed to distinguish between humans and animals.
“It’s just something about the way the grease breaks down that has the dogs were hitting on it,” Thomas suggested.
Since then, a new company of dogs has searched City Park, and Thomas asked the third group to inspect the area as well. They, too, lit on the same location, Thomas said, but another search turned up nothing.
As the search for Monnette continues, NOPD Officer Garry Flot said the location will remain in consideration.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” Flot said.