The Search

Original Air Date    11.13.2018

In This Episode

Payne and the team tag up with Fox31’s Chris Halsne for his search of the mineshafts. Tracy Sargent, dog handler, brings along her cadaver dog, Chance, to assist…. “Chance, hunt.”

“Many people know them as cadaver dogs, which of course he does find cadavers as well, but it should be based upon not just finding a cadaver or quote "where somebody died." It really is the full spectrum of all the human remains from a full sized body to bones and everything in between.” - Tracey Sergeant, K9 Search and Rescue Expert


Tad DiBiase: 00:01 I think given what we've heard in this case, you would start with the mine shafts. Now that said, my understanding is that's going to be incredibly difficult place to search.

Payne Lindsey: 00:15 That's Tad DiBiase, the "No Body" guy.

Tad DiBiase: 00:18 No one seems to say, oh yes, she liked to go and explore the mineshaft. She was a spelunker or whatever you call them. No one said that about her.

Tad DiBiase: 00:27 It is just easier to dispose of a body in a rural location or remote location. You need to really look at your suspect and say, was this suspect a hunter? Was he someone who spent a lot of time in the woods? Was someone who was familiar with these mines because he grew up in this area. Those are the things you need to look at and then focus your search that way by looking at where your defendant or your suspect is familiar with.

Tad DiBiase: 00:51 In this case, I think it's gonna be difficult because searching a mine shaft, it's physically dangerous and difficult to figure out where to go.

Tad DiBiase: 01:01 Now, a mine shaft is a little bit different because you don't really have burry it, you can just put it there, it would not be as exposed to the elements, it would not be exposed to temperature or animals, possibly so it's not a bad place to dispose of a body, but the flip side is we're a little over two years out, there maybe more remains that are more easily found because of the temperature in Colorado.

Tad DiBiase: 01:26 Colder temperatures are better for bodies because the decomposition doesn't happen as quickly. Burning is pretty low on the list because it is actually enormously difficult to burn a body. You need a temperature, several hundred if not thousand degrees fahrenheit. It's got to be a very, very high temperature to completely incinerated a body. Even in a crematorium when a body is professionally incinerated for cremation, there are still body parts left behind. Bone, teeth things like that. It's very difficult to dispose of a body that way. It's equally difficult with chemicals because you're not going to have a complete eradication of the body through these chemical. It would seem to me that the evidence in this case seems to point more towards mine shaft, but I also think it's physically difficult because I think it's dangerous to do that in the mine shaft. So you probably have to have people who are experienced going into these types of mine shafts, searching those areas.

Tad DiBiase: 02:31 You could certainly do just general searches of the area, but if you have some sense that this happened in a mine shaft, I don't know how helpful it is in this case to say, "Let's do a bunch of searches in fields and woods, streams and areas in the mountains." If they focus here, the evidence seems to point to a mine shaft as a likely place of disposal.

Payne Lindsey: 03:20 From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is "Up and Vanished." I'm your host Payne Lindsey.

Meredith: 03:25 Tracy this is Mike.

Mike: 03:31 Hey-

Tracy: 03:31 Hey Mike.

Mike: 03:31 Tracy, okay-

Meredith: 03:31 And this is Christina-

Christina: 03:31 Hey.

Tracy: 03:31 Hey Christina.

Christina: 03:31 Nice to meet you.

Tracy: 03:36 Nice to meet you. This is Chance. He's not working right now, so he can be petted.

Tracy: 03:49 When I was working patrol, I would run down fugitives, rapists, murderers, cop killers, all of that. Probably the most nervous I was on a case was a cop killing case and that was like the highest high that you could ever be on. I don't wanna say I wasn't scared. It really. It was more of an adrenaline rush.

Tracy: 04:08 This woman reported somebody, she felt like somebody was looking inside her house. So they called me. We went to her house and the dog stopped at the back of her house. Every window he stopped and paused, went to the next window stopped and paused, and then we went around and there were some woods at the front part of her house, but it wrapped around kind of the side of her house and when we track there, the dogs stopped and started circling around and I said, "We're in the guy's sit pool. It's right here."

Tracy: 04:41 We found exactly where he had been laying in the grass. It was a perfect outline of him laying prone and I said, "He's right here." The dog tracked where he had been laying down and hiding out, but he had just killed two cops. He had nothing to lose. He had nothing to lose to kill me and the dog and the officers with me. Anyway, we caught the guy. I've never trained a dog to bite people. Their job is to find them. Our job is to apprehend or help. I've never had a dog hurt or killed in the line of duty as far as chasing somebody.

Tracy: 05:15 My name is Tracy Sargent. A lot of folks call me Trace, but I do go by either Tracy or Trace.

Tracy: 05:22 Many, many years ago I didn't have a dog cause my life was pretty crazy with work and school and just everything going on, but I wanted to get a dog and do something, so I did some research and I discovered that the German Shepherd was like the perfect match for me. Found a breeder, had this adorable litter of 10 or 12 little puppies and the first one that comes running to me I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I'm in love. This is it, you know, and we'll take you home." And that's what I did.

Tracy: 05:50 Mind you, and I'm not exaggerating about this, we did have family pets when I was growing up, but we never went through any training or anything like that. I truly didn't know what end of this dog barked. I mean, that's how totally dumb and stupid and naive I was about all this.

Tracy: 06:06 I have this little puppy. What do I do with it? I take it to classes cause I don't know what to do with it. Well, fate stepped in. I was in my bed reading a Reader's Digest and I came across an article and I still have this article today. It was a woman with a German Shepherd that found a missing three year old boy and I thought, "Well, dog gone it. If she can do it, I can do it too."

Tracy: 06:28 That literally started the entire 180 degree change of my life. I started making some phone calls, doing some research, da da da, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, what if I find somebody and they're hurt? I don't know how to take care of them." So that's when I became the EMT. Well, I don't know anything about a radio. I don't know how to operate a radio, so that's when I became a ham radio operator.

Tracy: 06:50 I started hanging out with the firefighters and police officers and emergency management officials and da,da da, and I was like, "Y'all do this for a living. How much fun is this? This is what I'm supposed to do with my life."

Tracy: 07:02 From there I became a firefighter and I became a police officer and emergency manager. It led other avenues to go overseas and do special ops work and here I am today in Colorado with you good folks, and the keystone to all of that has always been the dogs. No matter where I was in the world and what I was doing or what I was pursuing. The dog was always the keystone.

Tracy: 07:29 It really combined the three loves of my life was that I love being outdoors. I love helping people and I love working with animals. I've worked with some of these families and I just see, I just look in their eyes and I think, "How in the world is this family going to survive this?"

Tracy: 07:46 That really inspires me and has inspired me for years is that I'm going to do everything I can to help these families through this darkness that no families expect that they're going to be in. No family expects to wake up one morning and think, "Oh, Kristal's going to be gone today, so I need to prepare myself for that."

Tracy: 08:09 Chance is an eight year old lab mix. His name actually has a meaning. He was rescued about four months old from a high kill shelter in Georgia. A friend of mine had rescued him because he was cute. She contacted me and she said, "This puppy seems really strange and different. Can you come and take a look at him?" So I did, and not that I was looking for any other working dogs of my own, I already had two, so I evaluated it's like, "Yeah, he is a special dog. He really needs to go to a working home." So my plan initially was to take him home, train him, and then give him to another search team, but I spent five minutes with him and said, "No, you're not going anywhere. You're staying right here."

Tracy: 08:50 He's an amazing dog. His mom, we know, is a chocolate lab. He's got the golden wheat color, but he's got the gold eyes and the pink nose of a Vizsla or a Weimaraner. He makes me feel like I could walk on water. He's one of those dogs that look up at you and just think you are just the greatest thing in the world, but he's a very hard worker. He's got great work ethic, he's got that really great mix of the lightfootedness and agility of a lab, but the work ethic of a German Shepherd and he absolutely has been a great, great partner and we've literally been around the world.

Tracy: 09:27 Chance technically is called a human remains detection dog. Many people know them as cadaver dogs, which of course he does find cadavers as well, but it should be based upon not just finding a cadaver or quote "where somebody died." It really is the full spectrum of all the human remains from a full sized body to bones and everything in between.

Tracy: 09:52 I want to clarify that anytime a human remains detection dog alerts or indicates to us that, "Hey, I smell human remains scent in this area," we cannot automatically assume somebody died here. We can't automatically assume that Kristal died there. The dog checks an area, they alert, indicate to something. We then as the human part of that investigative team has to come in and say, "Why did the dog alert here? Is it something that has nothing to do with the case?" It could be a mechanic that cut his hand working on a car has nothing to do with this, totally innocent. Or it could be that's where they hit her in the head and she bled there and they picked her up and moved her. When these dogs respond, they tell us a very important part of the picture, but they can't tell us the whole picture.

Tracy: 10:41 Scent is really like a living organism. Sun effects it. Wet weather, dry weather. There's a lot of things that do effect it. So for example, we may search in the morning and the scent conditions may be pretty good, but he's picking up something, some hints of something. It's like, hey, I want to go back after lunch and recheck it because the scent picture and scent conditions probably have changed so he may be able to pick it up even more.

Tracy: 11:05 They do an amazing job and my job is to get him in a situation where it increases the odds that if there is scent there, that he will pick it up and he will be able to pinpoint where that is and tell us, "Hey, I have found something here that smells like human remains scent."

Tracy: 11:27 The best way I can describe it, somebody gets a piece of steak out of a freezer. Okay? You put it on a countertop. It doesn't smell anything. When you open up a freezer, you don't smell all that meat in there, it's frozen, but when you put it on the countertop and you let it sit there for a couple of days, you're going to start smelling it. With all due respect, that is a body. A frozen body does not give off very much scent.

Tracy: 11:50 It's one of those tight rope kind things that we have to balance out. We want the cooler weather, we want the moist weather, but we don't want frozen weather.

Tracy: 12:01 He's an experienced dog, so I'll let him do his thing and I really try to stay out of that equation and not interfere. So I'm going to let him work it out as long as he needs to. It's really quick. The scent's either there or it's not there. A lot of it has to do with the size of the body, the condition of the body. Was it traumatized in any way? Was it, for lack of better words, or with all respect, was it damaged in any way? How long the body was there. Was it long enough where we have cadaver fluids that are coming out of the body that are absorbing into the ground and or the cadaver scent that has been absorbed into the vegetation?

Tracy: 12:40 I'm not only just looking for the scent, I'm looking for what we call a COB: his change of behavior. He's trained alert is a sit. Most people will see, it's like, "Oh, he's acting strange. He's acting different." That's the response we typically get for people that have either never seen him work or have never seen a search dog work. I've worked with him long enough to understand and know his change of behavior, his body language. I'm actually looking more for that.

Chris Halsne: 13:14 We are right now by this huge water tower and we're in a white X-Terra, we're looking at three different mines up here, one straight down and two holes and we're working our way up that road to the dead end. There's a whole bunch of mines just off that road. You won't miss us.

Payne Lindsey: 13:30 My team and I tagged up with Chris Halsney, out in the Baca. We brought Tracy with us.

Payne Lindsey: 13:36 How you doing? Good to see you.

Chris Halsne: 13:43 Glad you found us.

Chris Halsne: 13:48 There's two things. There are probably about 10 that we didn't actually look at because they were in such remote locations that we figured there'd be no way anybody could drag a body that far.

Payne Lindsey: 14:01 Chris came equipped with a comprehensive digital map of all the mine locations.

Chris Halsne: 14:05 We've hiked 20 or 30 miles probably. We're trying to identify the ones that you can get to with a road and be able to carry something maybe up to a quarter mile. If it's to the top of this hill, no one's going to do that.

Payne Lindsey: 14:19 No way.

Chris Halsne: 14:20 We can mark them off because we, we hiked and hiked and hiked to make sure that happened. It's interesting. A lot of them are gated off, a few of the gates are new, so now you don't know, right, because it's been a few years and there are others that are vandalized and open. Used a remote control car with a camera down around corners, done a lot of crawling. We have a cable light, like a plumber uses that we're stringing down smaller places. We're just checking places off so that the cops don't have to look, but these mines are plenty big to get into and so if you wanted to be deliberate, and again that's just the rumor, I would say seven or eight of these were definitely the kind of places that you could do that.

Chris Halsne: 15:05 Our database just shows mines that the state Colorado Human Services Department, their mining reclamation division. Their inspectors come out to close a mine opening. They do an inspection and make sure that it's closed, that you can't get in there. And so we got that database and they should all be closed. None of these should be open, but that's not the case. Some are. We've been very lucky in that the private property so far we've gone and asked the owners and told them what we're doing, they know all about the case and they're glad to let us go look.

Chris Halsne: 15:36 Drink a lot of water. Is this is 85? 8,600 up here. You'll get a headache quick.

Tracy: 15:45 Hey Chris, I'm Trace.

Chris Halsne: 15:47 Hi nice to meet you.

Tracy: 15:48 And this is Chance. So you have a mine here?

Chris Halsne: 15:51 Yeah, I mean we can't. There's a grate on the top and then there's a hole in the side that we could shimmy through. It goes back there a little ways and we can't see the end. It'd be a test.

Tracy: 16:04 Well he is trained in disaster work, so he's been in confined areas and top the debris and things like that, so we'll see.

Chris Halsne: 16:12 Yeah, let's do it.

Tracy: 16:13 Okay. Sure.

Payne Lindsey: 16:16 As Chris and his team searched the mines, they also gauge the feasibility as a disposal site. He led Tracy and Chance to the entrance of numerous mind shafts to see if Chance might indicate on anything.

Tracy: 16:37 We have a small opening. If there's anything in there, the scent actually is coming through that hole directly out here. It's like a tunnel, so technically we don't have to put the dog in that hole for him to detect any scent. For him to check that hole is really all we need because it's a contained area. If someone or if there's any human remain scent in that area, the scent is going to come straight out of here.

Chris Halsne: 17:09 Okay. Perfect.

Tracy: 17:09 Cause although it feels cold to us, it's warmer out here than it is in the hole. Scent travels to heat. It's going to be attracted and pulled toward heat. So again, anything in that hole, the scent is going to be pulled outside to this area. We need him to check it and I can tell you right now, there's nothing in there. Just from him just smelling that right there.

Tracy: 17:33 Chance.

Tracy: 17:34 I mean the terrain is somewhat steep but it's not something that we have to, you know, climb up, you know, all the time. And, my experience has been that dogs don't have the altitude issues or challenges like we do. He of course being in Georgia, the highest elevation is 4,000, approximately 4,000 feet. We're now 8,000. And as you can see, he's not affected by it at all.

Payne Lindsey: 18:16 How'd you get up there Chris? Is it up there?

Tracy: 18:20 Chris, which, is this the one you were thinking of?

Chris Halsne: 18:22 I'm about 10 feet from it, so I'm guessing it's this right here.

Payne Lindsey: 18:29 The locations we saw were possible to get to, but in my mind are still fairly treacherous.

Tracy: 18:34 We of course want to exhaust all areas of where Kristal might be. Turn over any rock and every rock of any possibility.

Tracy: 18:42 Chance, hunt.

Payne Lindsey: 18:43 They were either uphill or downhill on steep inclines, difficult places to drag a body.

Tracy: 18:54 Yeah. Nothing.

Chris Halsne: 18:58 Fox 31 problem solvers ventured into the cold, windswept mountains surrounding Cresta. We drove over incredibly rough terrain and scrambled mile after mile crawling through dozens of open shafts, most of which have never been searched by police. While Fox 31 was searching mines, a crew from the popular national podcast Up and Vanished showed up as well.

Tracy: 19:23 Chase let's go.

Chris Halsne: 19:24 Also hunting for new clues as to Reisinger's whereabouts.

Tracy: 19:28 Chance, hunt.

Chris Halsne: 19:29 They brought a search and rescue cadaver dog to check out the last place Reisinger was seen alive in July of 2016. A remote stretch of sand-

Payne Lindsey: 19:39 By the end of Chris Olsney's search, his team had ruled out a ton of locations and they also came away with a pretty unusual photograph.

Chris Halsne: 19:46 Show that picture. We're going want to do a piece in a couple of weeks. I'm going to end my piece with it. He went up there to the mine and he was waiting for us. He took a picture down the hole at the mine.

Payne Lindsey: 20:00 What?

Tracy: 20:04 No way. No way.

Chris Halsne: 20:10 That's me, holding the camera above my head to shoot down into the hole.

Payne Lindsey: 20:17 It was a picture that looked like an angel, an optical illusion, but it held more significance to the people closest to Kristal. To her loved ones, it meant Kristal's spirit was still there.

Payne Lindsey: 20:29 This is Debbie. Rodney's wife.

Debbie: 20:32 Sylvia, Eli's mom, the first thing she said was, "It's a Phoenix." She didn't even have to think about it and after she said that, we all went, "Yes, that's exactly what it is. It's so obvious."

Debbie: 20:47 The Phoenix had meaning for Kristal, you know, rebirth, coming back to life, stuff like that, and it meant so much to her that she gave Kasha that for her middle name. For that shape to appear there, mysteriously, it just gives me goosebumps. You know, Amy and I believe in all the signs and spiritual type stuff, so another person might say, "It's just a tree" or whatever, you know, but to us that means something.

Debbie: 21:19 Either she is there or she's trying to tell us something. We take it as a sign that it's Kristal. What she's telling us up for interpretation, but to us that just means she's there.

Payne Lindsey: 21:47 We spoke to Kristal's aunt, Jennifer. Probably Kristal's closest biological family member.

Jennifer: 21:52 I'm the aunt she came out to live with. I mean, my sister, she was a teenage mom. My niece throughout her entire childhood always went back to my mom and my mom passed away and then she stayed off and on with me like through her whole childhood.

Jennifer: 22:15 Phoenix was always, you know, her grandma was there, her mom was there, and my sister and my mom. And she would come and live with me in California when she was four. She lived with me in Miami. When I moved to Colorado, she lived with me. She was in eighth grade. And then she would go back home, and basically after my mom passed away, it was really hard for her. She was 15 when she became a ward of the state. She came to live with me when she was 16. It was different. Kristal and I were 13 years apart. I mean, I remember when she was born, I slept in the same room with her mom and her. Different kind of relationship. I loved her so much.

Jennifer: 23:14 Colorado is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. You can breathe in the crisp, cool air and hike in the mountains and you know, ride your bike for 12 miles. It was amazing, amazing place to be. One point I never thought I would leave. Got super expensive, and I was a single parent too.

Jennifer: 23:46 I thought maybe if she came to Texas that I could help her and she said, "Colorado's beautiful, Elijah's there, you know, he's a good dad for Kasha"

Jennifer: 24:01 And I wasn't going to, you know, convince her otherwise. I wasn't going to try to talk her out of what made her happy. We would talk all the time, still like we always talk. Basically. no matter what, she's called me since she was three years old. Like every birthday, and I would call her every birthday.

Jennifer: 24:25 We talk so often we always have. She calls me on my birthday every year and when she didn't call me for my birthday, it was odd. It's she would never have missed and I knew something was wrong, instantly. Because it didn't matter no matter what. No matter what was going on. I mean she would always call me. That's when I reached out to her ex boyfriend. I knew who he was because she told me who he was and asked, "Where is she?"

Jennifer: 25:06 I mean, I can tell you right now cause my birthday's on the 19th, that whatever happened to her was before that day. She really wasn't sure who, she thought that somebody roofied her, raped her. I think there was like three guys she was hanging out with around that. I don't want to sit there and accuse anybody if they don't do anything, but it's still, it's just something just doesn't seem right.

Payne Lindsey: 25:40 There's one episode left this season and this story is far from over.

Catfish: 25:44 Jerry Garcia. They had a friend named Catfish John. They wrote a song about it. When he passed, they passed the name to me because they could see that I could get along with everybody like a catfish.

Payne Lindsey: 26:00 Next time, on Up and Vanished.

Payne Lindsey: 26:20 And don't forget, this Sunday, November 18th is the premiere of the Up and Vanished TV show at 7:00 PM eastern time on Oxygen.

Payne Lindsey: 26:27 Thanks guys. I'll see you soon.

Meredith: 26:48 Up and Vanished is an investigative podcast, told weekly, produced for Tenderfoot TV by Payne Lindsey, Mike Ronney, and me, Meredith Steadman, with new episodes every Monday. Executive producers, Payne Lindsey and Donald Albright. Additional production by Resonate Recordings as well as Mason Lindsay, Rob Ricada, and Christina Dana. Our intern is Halle Bidal. Original score by Makeup and Vanity Set. Our theme song is Ophelia, performed by Isa Rose. Our cover art is by Trevor Eisler.

Meredith: 27:19 Special thanks to the team at Cadence 13. Visit us on social media via @upandvanished, or you can visit our website, upandvanished.com, where you can join in on our discussion board. If you're enjoying Up and Vanished, tell a friend, family member or coworker about it, and don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review on apple podcasts. Thanks for listening.