VALDOSTA, Ga. - About 40 law enforcement volunteers sifted through heaps of garbage in Lowndes County, Ga., on Monday, gently pulling back soup cans and cardboard beer cases searching for a missing baby from Jacksonville, Fla.
The body of 10-month-old Jay-Quan Mosley is thought to be in the Onyx Pecan-Row Landfill. Authorities think the body was dumped in Jacksonville and then unknowingly taken to the landfill, about 120 miles northwest of the city, Lowndes County Sheriff's Office Capt. J.D. Yeager said.
Law enforcement officers said a tip brought them to the site just outside Valdosta. The child's mother was found dead Friday in a remote wooded area in Alachua County, about 55 miles southwest of Jacksonville. Authorities were also tipped to the location of Lynda Jean Wilkes' body.
Ms. Wilkes, 40, and her baby were last seen April 22 when they went to meet with John Franklin Mosley Jr. at a Jacksonville shopping mall. Mr. Mosley, 39, has denied any involvement in the case and has denied being the boy's father.
Mr. Mosley, who is considered a "person of interest" in the disappearance, is being held in the Duval County jail on an unrelated charge of sex with a minor. He was initially held on $100,000 bail.
His bail has been raised to $500,000 since Friday, but he has not been charged in the death of Ms. Wilkes or her son. The State Attorney's Office wouldn't comment about the reason for the increase.
The canvass of the landfill began Monday morning and is expected to cover more than one acre of waste, about six to eight feet deep. Authorities said they will sift through about 400,000 to 500,000 tons of trash during a span of about three or four days.
It's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, they said.
"The odds are overwhelming, but there's always hope," said Ronald Olive, a landfill expert from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "It takes a little bit of luck and a little bit of prayer."
The agency has conducted about 87 searches for missing children in the past 15 months and only two have been searches in a landfill, said Bob O'Brien, the deputy director of the Missing Children's Division.
Part of Mr. Olive's expertise includes analyzing landfill dumping records and matching them to the approximate time of dumping. With the data, he can pinpoint a probable location for a missing object or person.