[Hpn] Body's recovery delayed needlessly, K-9 leader says: City defends steps to find homeless woman; The Tennessean; 8/26/2006

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@gmail.com
Sat, 26 Aug 2006 23:21:33 -0400

Previously sent, as well as related, article located at:

Friday, August 25, 2006
The Tennessean
[Nashville, Tennessee]
2 suspects arrested in homeless death
Men were drunk, looking for trouble, police say

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Saturday, August 26, 2006
The Tennessean
[Nashville, Tennessee]
Body's recovery delayed needlessly, K-9 leader says
City defends steps to find homeless woman

Staff Writer

A local search and rescue dog pinpointed the location of a homeless
woman's body hours after she drowned in the Cumberland River on Aug.
11, the canine's handler said this week, raising new questions about
why the remains were not recovered until 10 days later.

Members of Nashville's homeless community, relatives of the victim and
others had criticized what they perceived as a lack of urgency in
recovering the body of Tara Cole, 32, who was pushed into the river by
two men as she slept at Riverfront Park.

In a letter sent to Vice Mayor Howard Gentry this week, Nikki Ivey, a
volunteer who has run the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management's K-9
search and rescue for four years, said her dog, Tbaa, indicated that
the body was beneath a barge tied to the bank at Riverfront Park.

The barge was ultimately moved, and Cole's body recovered on Aug. 21.

"Tara Cole should have been discovered within 15 hours of her reported
drowning," Ivey wrote. "This would have allowed the family, at the
very least, an open casket service."

Scott Harris, emergency coordinator for the Mayor's Office of
Emergency Management, has said searchers were not certain of the
location of the body until Aug. 21, when they brought in specially
trained dogs from Memphis with experience in search along the
Mississippi River.

Harris did not respond to a request for an interview, but Deputy Mayor
Bill Phillips on Friday defended the recovery effort.

"My point of view is that the city of Nashville did everything
possible to make this as painless an operation as possible under very
difficult circumstances," he said.

Emergency Management interim director Kevin Penney agreed, disputing
Ivey's assertion that she had informed Harris on Aug. 11 and again on
Aug. 16 that the body was probably beneath the barge.

Gentry said he was taking Ivey's letter very seriously but waiting to
see what the mayor's office concluded after looking into it. As vice
mayor, Gentry is the president of the Metro Council but not part of
the mayor's administration.

The senselessness of Cole's killing galvanized the city's homeless
community and advocates, who held nightly vigils at the river's edge
until the body was recovered. Two suspects were arrested Thursday and
are charged in her killing.

The victim's mother, Pearl Cole, said on Friday that if the search
coordinators did not move as soon as they could have "then that's
really a shame."

"Would I have wanted just to see her face one last time? Absolutely,"
she said. "Did they take that away from me? I don't know."

Harris told The Tennessean on the day of Cole's disappearance that he
thought the body was beneath the barge but that it would be too
dangerous to send divers after her because of the amount of debris
there. In succeeding days, he said he thought the body might have
moved and that he did not know where it was.

To move the barge, Metro needed the services of a private tug boat
operator and had to agree to hold the company blameless for any damage
that might occur in the operation.

"There's some liability in moving the barge, but if we'd had the
amount of certainty on the first day that we had on the 10th day, we
would have had the barge moved," said Penney, of OEM. The agency
reviews each search operation to see what it can do better.

During an interview Friday, Ivey said, "We did our job. We located the
body, just like we've done before."

Metro police detective Ricky Winfrey, in charge of the investigation
into Cole's death, said he was not convinced that Ivey's dog had
located the body, but neither was he convinced that everything
possible was done to retrieve Cole's remains.

"If that had been anyone else's daughter under there, they would have
called in someone from Germany if necessary," he said.


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