Behind the scenes: Searching for Jhessye Shockley

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MOBILE, Ariz. -- The disappearance of 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley garnered national attention last fall. Soon after she vanished, Glendale detectives got a tip little Jhessye had not only been murdered but also dumped in the trash.

Thanks to technological advances, the city was able to determine that the trash ended up at the Butterfield Landfill in Mobile which is just south of the Valley.

"Our detectives are still confident that they're going to find Jhessye's remains," said Tracey Breeden of the Glendale Police Department.

But six weeks into the search, hundreds of hours of manpower have been exhausted.

"We have everything from police officers to commanders working out there," Breeden said.

Thousands of dollars have been spent and only once have crews suspected they found Jhessye.

"We've had that happen once in the operation and it was animal remains," Breeden explained.

"We're becoming very adept at identifying chicken parts and rib parts and even dogs and smaller animals," Phoenix Police Detective Will Andersen said.

Andersen is among those suited up to carefully comb through the daunting piles of debris.

"You are shoulder to shoulder with everybody else on the line to cover everything in a very precise manner," he explained. "It's very organized, very methodical, very slow moving but it's more important that we cover things in detail than moving in any particular pace."

The pace is critical considering the odds.

In 1995, crews searched the same landfill for 13-year-old Brad Hansen but found nothing.

They were there again in 1998, hoping to find missing mother of two Cookie Jacobson. Again they left empty handed.

"This is about a child, it's not about statistics," Andersen said.

It's the reality that gives officers motivation to keep digging.

"[We want] to make sure that no stone is left uncovered, that no bag is left unripped open, that we do the right job, that we do the best job possible," Andersen said. "We're not going to miss her because of something we did not do."

Unfortunately given the time that has passed, there probably isn't much left of that smiling little girl.

"We do not expect there to be a tremendous amount of her left," Andersen said. "It's just the nature of what happens to you. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

While it's a tough reality, Glendale police refuses to allow time or even money stand in the way of justice.

There's no set number or set anything," Breeden said. "We're just taking it as we go and always hopeful, this week, next week, is the week we're going to locate something."

Glendale police say crews have completed 25 percent of the designated search area, which is about 180 feet by 200 feet and 20 feet deep. When the search started on Feb. 6, the area contained about 6,000 tons of trash.

The price tag for the search is now closing in on $200,000.