UPDATE: Authorities search for remains of missing 8-year-old Fort Atkinson girl
JANESVILLE—Authorities are sifting dirt on Janesville's northeast side, looking for the body of an 8-year-old girl who was reported missing in 1947.
According to authorities at the scene:
A man provided information July 30 to detectives at the Rock County Sheriff's Office and Janesville Police Department that led to the excavation at the northwest corner of Wright and Rotamer roads this morning.
Georgia Jean Weckler of rural Fort Atkinson was reported missing May 1, 1947, after she was last seen getting mail out of her mailbox. The man who tipped off authorities said he thought she might be buried in the Janesville lot.
Authorities began investigating last week, and trained dogs indicated human remains were at the site where the man described. No remains have been found.
Investigators from the Rock County and Jefferson County sheriff's offices, Janesville Police Department, Wisconsin Crime Lab and several dogs are sorting through the wooded lot. Crews are digging holes and sorting through buckets of dirt using a sifting system.
The lot is the only undeveloped portion of the intersection, and a home was set to be built at the site.
According to Gazette archives, Georgia was abducted in daylight May 1, 1947, within sight of her parents' farm six miles west of Fort Atkinson off Highway 12.
“After school closed in the afternoon at the Oakland Center School where she was a 3rd-grader, Georgia Jean was given a ride to her farm lane by Mrs. Carl Floerke, whose daughter attended the same school,” according to a Gazette story May 1, 1967.
“Mrs. Floerke saw the girl take the family's mail from the mail box along the highway and stroll down the lane. She was never seen again. The mail was never found,” the story said.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Georgia Jean was last seen wearing a pink cardigan and jeans and had planned to pick flowers in the woods for May baskets.
According to the story:
The FBI was involved in the case, and despite one of the most intensive hunts in the history of the area at the time, neither the girl nor any abductors were found.
A Richland Center man, Buford Sennett, serving a life term at Waupun State Prison for a different murder and kidnapping, confessed to the Weckler abduction, but he changed his story several times.
Then-Jefferson County District Attorney Francis Garity and Jefferson County Undersheriff Roger Reinel, who worked on the case, tended to believe Sennett's story that he had kidnapped the girl with two accomplices for ransom but fed her an overdose of sleeping pills and dumped her lifeless body in the Blue River.
“Garity died believing the confession was true. But Sennett changed his story several times. Once he said the body was buried, but police dug up the ground he led them to and never found the body. He took police to the Blue River, but divers couldn't find the body. And Sennett refused to sign a statement.”
Reinel, formerly the Jefferson County sheriff, considered Sennett the likely suspect, but told the Gazette in 1967 he checked out a half dozen leads a year.
“I don't imagine it will ever be closed,” he said. “It will always be on file.”
The uncertainty over her disappearance tormented her family, according to the story published on the 20th anniversary of her disappearance. Her father, George Weckler, died in 1956 convinced she was alive.