VK9 Scent Specific Search and Recovery Unit
- Providing Specialized K9 Support to LE
Argument for the canine ability to work aged trails and car trails

In November 2004, VK9 and another team were working a missing person case for the Sheriff’s Office in Harnett County, North Carolina.  On the conclusion of that case, the teams were approached and asked if we would help the detectives with a cold case.  A man’s body had been found alongside a rural road.  He had been brutally murdered.  The officers wanted to know if we could trail the man’s movements from the PLS in an effort to determine where he had been or where he might have been killed.  The handlers specifically asked the officers to not tell them very much about the case to prevent the handlers from influencing the dogs’ movements.  The handlers were taken to the man’s residence where he had been last seen leaving alive the previous evening, prior to his body being discovered, and the clothing the man was wearing at the time of his death was made available to make scent pads.

K-9 Patton, a BH, started off at the man’s residence leaving the trailer park and trailing though the residential area, reaching a construction lay-down yard (an area where construction equipment and materials are temporarily stored) a distance of approximately one mile from the PLS.  There Patton was halted and another team was started.  Two more Bloodhounds started separately but duplicated Patton’s search of the storage yard then left the area heading down the road entering the county.  A short distance down this road, both dogs appeared to ‘hang-up’ and started backtracking to the man’s residence.

K-9 Jack, a German shorthaired pointer, was started next at the entrance of the storage yard.  Jack also went search through the yard before exiting the area on the county road.  Jack continued down the road passing the point where the other two dogs had stopped.  K9 Jack continued pulling strongly until reaching a bridge located about a mile from the construction yard.  At the bridge, the dog started circling and crossing back and forth just in front of the bridge before, again, taking off strongly down the road.  The flanking officer informed the handler that the area the dog had stopped and was circling was where the body had been discovered.  The team continued turning onto several different roads.  At one point, approximately 2 miles where the body had been located, the dog left the road to indicate at a pair of filled trash bags thrown off and up into a field.  Investigation revealed that the bags were filled with bloody material consistent with material that had been recovered with body (later lab testing confirmed the blood to be from the murdered man).  It must be also noted that  K9 Jack had by-passed other bags of trash, numerous road-killed deer, and other refuse without the slightest interest.

K9 Jack continued on an additional 2 miles before being halted to rest.  When restarted, the dog worked another 2 miles before being placed into a vehicle to do "jump trailing".  In Jump Trailing, the dog is moved by vehicle and restarted just before an intersecting road.  Once the dog has determined a direction of travel (either turning or continuing straight), the dog is again moved by vehicle to the next intersection.  This continued for the next 7-8 miles reaching the next town.  There the dog started working into the residential areas.  Jack was halted for fatigue and another dog was started.  This dog continued into the town working through this area before being halted due to fatigue and darkness.

The next day the handlers placed the dogs at several exit roads from the town where the dogs turned to work back into the town.  At this time all dog work was ceased due to canine fatigue.  At this point the teams requested, and were given, further case information to write their reports.  Documents revealed that the murder had occurred a little over a month prior to the dogs working it (32 days).

Since more than one dog (there were 4) worked this case, successfully, and their performances have been repeated several times since then on similar, or older, aged scent work; it gives validity on the dog’s ability to work an aged trail.  Other handlers, from across the United States have reported similar successes so it is not just a few dogs or specific breeds being able to do this.

Both Cases have been LE documented with agency letters.

Read Harnett Co LE Letter       Page Two