Edgerton man was tipster that led to police dig for Georgia Jean Weckler remains

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Gazette staff
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

JANESVILLE—On the day Rock County authorities identified him as the man whose tip led to an intensive search for a girl who went missing in the 1940s, 82-year-old Norman Weitzel said he was grateful for the work investigators put into the effort.

Weitzel told authorities he was picking berries with a friend off East Rotamer Road in July of 1947 when he saw what he thought was a freshly dug grave about 5 feet long and 2 feet wide, according to court documents.

As they were looking at the area, Weitzel told investigators an adult white male came out of the bushes, yelling at them to get off the property, according to the documents.

Weitzel told detectives he and his friend ran away scared. Weitzel said he recognized the face of the man who chased them away but did not know his name.  He said he recognized him from a Janesville area church, according to the release.

For decades, he suspected the ground held 8-year-old Georgia Jean Weckler, who was last seen a couple of months before Weitzel found the possible burial site, authorities said.

After closely guarding last week the identity of the man who told them where Weckler might be buried, Rock County authorities named Weitzel as their tipster Wednesday.

He came forward to Janesville police and the Rock County Sheriff's Office late last month after he saw developers were planning to turn the wooded area near East Rotamer and North Wright roads into a new home.

Four specially trained dogs indicated there were human remains on the property, sparking a painstaking search for Weckler that began Aug. 5.

Dozens of deputies, detectives, officers and evidence experts from the Rock County Sheriff's Office, Janesville Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Department spent five days sifting through dirt at the site.

Their efforts ended Friday without finding any remains.

Overtime hours used in the search, and to a lesser extent the supplies and food purchased for it, add up to a price tag of about $9,000 between the three agencies, officials said.

Much of the cost fell to the Rock County Sheriff's Office—a total bill of $7,685, of which nearly $6,000 was overtime pay, Sheriff Robert Spoden said.

That price is in line with overtime costs on similarly high-profile crimes, Spoden said.

“This is typically what we would spend if we had a crime scene—or a potential crime scene—for a homicide,” he said. “It's the price of being thorough.”

Weitzel declined to give a full interview Wednesday afternoon, but said he was not surprised to see the amount of resources devoted to the search.

“That's just called getting the job done,” he said.

Weitzel told authorities about his suspicions years ago, but they never acted on to this extent, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

Authorities dedicated the resources they did to the search because the cadaver-sniffing dogs added a measure of independent verification to what Weitzel told them, Rock County Sheriff's Office Capt. Todd Christiansen said.

“That's pretty much what made it go to the extent that it did,” Christiansen said. “It seemed very credible, and we needed to follow up on it.”

Rock County authorities on Friday turned the search for Weckler back over to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, which has investigated the case since she was last seen walking up the driveway to her house after school more than 66 years ago.

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