Sept. 4, 2019

The Quarry

The Quarry

Podcast listener tips led us to an infamous Elmore County location.  Our searches here were filled with surprises.

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Transcript

Welcome to Secrets True Crime.  I am your host, Amber Sitton.  What is done in darkness will eventually come to light.  That is the purpose of this podcast...to shine light on the story of Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand. They vanished from their home in the tiny Alabama community of Holtville on Memorial Day in 2017.  They haven't been seen or heard from since and their bodies have not been found. This is episode 14 of a serial podcast and they are designed to be listened to in order. Listener discretion is advised.  This episode does not contain foul language and the subject matter may involve violence, sexual content, murder and adult themes.  It’s not suitable for younger listeners.  If you know or have known Jerry or knew Susan after she was married to Jerry, I want to hear from you.  Someone knows something.  Information you may think is small or insignificant could make a difference in this case and you can remain anonymous.  secretstruecrime@gmail.com. There will be an announcement about Season 2 at the end of this episode so be sure to listen all the way through.

 

When I began this podcast, my goal was to find out what happened to Susan and Evan.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to become convinced that Susan and Evan are no longer with us.  I’ve learned there is a great deal of evidence that they were murdered and that there is no evidence to indicate they have been seen or heard from since Memorial Day weekend in 2017.  It seems there is one major hurdle for their families to begin to justice and that is finding their remains.  We have been putting a lot of time and effort into searching for them and we will continue to do so.  In this episode, we are going to shine some light on what has to be one of the more prominent urban legends in Elmore County.  We received numerous tips about what is often referred to as the gravel pits that are located near Wetumpka.  A better description of it would be a granite quarry.  One of the tips indicated that Jerry spent a good bit of time at this quarry.  Someone even related a story to me about Jerry being present in a group that joked about how you could sink a body in this quarry and it would never be found.  This person couldn’t remember if Jerry is the one that made that statement or if it was someone else in the group.  While the statement could be interpreted in a sinister manner, when you know some of the history of the quarry, you have to consider that it could have been an innocent comment based on the rumors surrounding the quarry.  This quarry has long been rumored to be connected to another missing person in Elmore County.  Traci Pittman Kegley has been missing since April 26, 1998.  Traci was last seen at a nearby gas station that afternoon.  The next morning her car was found abandoned on the side of a road near Wetumpka.  Her 2 year old daughter was found unharmed in her carseat in the back seat.  Traci’s purse, drivers license and other belongings were found in her car.  She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.  Traci’s mother is adamant that Traci would have never left her daughter.  Traci’s divorce had been finalized 16 days before she disappeared. Traci’s car was found a short distance from the quarry on a rural and remote road and it is rumored that her car was spotted earlier that night on the side of the road in front of the quarry.  Due to this, the quarry was of interest to investigators and is widely rumored to be where Traci would be found.  Because of the wide speculation that her body was put into the quarry and the interest in the quarry by law enforcement, discussion among friends about bodies in the quarry wouldn’t be all that unusual.  But it still made the quarry a new place of interest for us too.  The site checked a lot of the boxes for the criteria we have established in the search for Susan and Evan.  It is within close proximity, it’s reasonably accessible, and provides adequate privacy, cover, and concealment.  If the person responsible for Susan and Evan’s disappearance was familiar with the quarry and aware that it could be deep enough to potentially hide a body for many, many years, it is a location that we had to take a closer look.  I spoke to countless people about the quarry including some law enforcement.  Everyone I spoke with had a little information to share.  I was told the quarry was hundreds of feet deep on one end.  We were told by countless people that it is so deep, there is a crane and a truck with wheels at least 6 feet tall beneath the surface of the water.  I located and reached out to the property owner and explained my interest in his property.  He graciously granted permission for us to do whatever we needed to do.  Both Michael and I began to plan the best way to take a closer look at this quarry.  I continued contacting people and asking questions.  I learned that the ABI or Alabama Bureau of Investigation searched the quarry many years ago when they were investigating Traci Kegley’s disappearance.  I was given the name of the head of the ABI at that time and was told he was the one who headed up the quarry search.  I did a little research and although he is now retired, I was able to contact him.  He seemed to remember the quarry search well and confirmed that he did take a team of divers to the quarry.  He said they spent 4-5 hours attempting to search the quarry.  He described the visibility in the water as bad and told me that the bottom of the pit was extremely dark.  He said there was some kind of foreign material or mineral on the bottom of the quarry that caused it to be so dark.  He told me that the divers’ lights were no match for the darkness and their search was not successful.  He said they requested some additional resources from the state that would be needed to successfully search the quarry but the resources were not received.  I asked him about the possibility of it being extremely deep and inquired if he remembered the presence of a crane or other equipment.  He didn’t remember encountering or experiencing any issues at the quarry other than the darkness but he didn’t recall how deep it was.  After much discussion, Michael and I agreed on 3 primary goals we wanted to achieve at the quarry property.  The goals of searching the quarry pond were to 1) obtain accurate depth data, 2) locate and identify any obstructions including heavy equipment, and 3) produce a bathometric chart for the pond. Achieving these goals would support future searches of the pond using submersible drone technology and/or divers. A secondary goal of the search was to identify any potential target areas for those future searches as a result of the high-resolution sonar imagery obtained during the bathometric charting process.  Michael determined the best way for us to achieve these goals would be through the use of a side scan sonar system.  I’ll share a little of the technical details related to the equipment Michael obtained.  He purchased a 14 foot flat bottom Jon boat and equipped it with RayMarine’s “Element” CHIRP Sonar/GPS running the Lighthouse Sport OS and equipped with an “all-in-one” transducer for Hypervision, Downvision, Sidevisioin, Realvision, and conventional CHIRP sonar channels. The Element unit uses 1.2 MHz frequencies to produce precision images at up to 100 feet of depth, but can also use 350 kHz for depths up to 600’, or 200 kHz for depths up to 900 feet. The team also carried a submersible color/IR camera with built-in white and IR LED lighting on a 100’ cable reel and dedicated viewer/DVR.

 

Michael and I spent so much time working and planning the quarry search, we were both very eager to get the search underway.  On the morning of Thursday August 15th, 2019, the team met at the quarry.  Michael launched the boat into the quarry and the scanning of the quarry began.  It was another sunny day with triple digit temperatures, there was very little shade and we were riding in an aluminum boat.  Luckily Michael thought to purchase some cushions for us to sit on as the boat itself was too hot to touch.  Several of us took turns riding in the boat as Michael used to sonar to scan the quarry.  There was a learning curve with the sonar system.  Michael tested out several different settings trying to see what worked best.  Mid morning, as I was sitting on the shore, Michael and the other searchers saw what looked to be a barrel resting on a pile of rocks appear on the sonar screen.  Everyone in the boat was fixated on the screen as Michael began a 180 degree turn to pass back over the area where they saw the barrel.  Suddenly, another shocking image appeared on the sonar screen.  It looked very much like a skull and torso.  Someone on the boat radioed back to shore what they’d seen and for just a few seconds, everyone on shore sat in a silent state of shock.  Then everyone jumped up and began scurrying around trying to figure out the best way to get to Michael and the other searchers.  They and the images they’d seen were located on the far end of the quarry completely out of our view.  Michael was busy manning the boat and the sonar so I wasn’t able to speak to him directly to get his thoughts on the reported sonar images.  I wanted to get to the shore near his location as soon as I could.  I was emotional.  We’d been searching for Susan and Evan for months now.  Was it possible we’d actually found one of them?  Or Traci Pittman Kegley?  As we gathered gear to make the trek to the other side of the quarry, I said a prayer.  I prayed that the day had come that we’d be able to bring one of those family’s loved one home.  We were all rushing to get what we needed and I remembered I had a machete in my car.  My machete has been the butt of many jokes over all the searches.  My primary use for it has been to clear all those dog sized spiders out of my path but we soon realized, this time it would be used for much more.  There was no clear path to reach that side of the quarry.  There wasn’t even the slightest animal path to help us get there.  Earlier this year, a tornado came through Wetumpka and there were many huge trees that were blown over on that side of the quarry.  The quarry itself is surrounded by forest but we were in a clearing before the forest.  The part of the clearing that bordered the forest was overgrown with tall, thick vegetation that was taller than I am.  Part of the group decided that there wasn’t a safe way to reach our destination and turned back.  They were right.  It was treacherous ground and thinking I’d be spending most of my day sitting in the sun on a boat, I’d made the poor decision to wear shorts.  Not only was the terrain hazardous but we had concerns about stepping on a snake because the reality was, we couldn’t see where we were stepping.  But I wasn’t turning back.  None of the families or friends were present this day.  If we’d possibly located a set of remains, I wanted to be there in their place.  I’ve come to love these families and I was determined to get there.  3 of us continued through the vegetation.  As we neared the treeline, we encountered numerous fallen trees and not small ones either.  We had to climb through the branches and make our way up and over the trees.  I couldn’t stop thinking about their families.  I was expecting them to message me to see how things were going but thankfully they didn’t.  I’d made up my mind that I wouldn’t tell them anything until we knew for sure if we found something.  I was struggling with the uncertainty of the situation and I knew it would be much harder on them.  I didn’t want to put them through that unless we really had something.  As we made our way into the forest adjacent to the quarry, our trek became a bit easier.  We finally made it to the bank of the quarry near where Michael and the others were still scanning.  About an hour had passed since we’d been alerted to their possible finds.  After another 15 minutes of scanning back and forth over the same small part of the quarry, Michael steered the boat to the shore where we were standing.  2 members of the crew on the boat with Michael immediately began to describe what they saw on the sonar.  They were adamant that they saw a face.  I wanted to know what Michael saw and his thoughts on it.  Michael did confirm that they saw something that looked exactly like a skull and upper torso.  As it appeared on the screen of the sonar, it was shocking to everyone.  It wasn’t one of those situations where one person sees something and has to point it out for the others to see it.  It was instantaneously noticed by all and all agreed on what they saw.  But Michael told me he had a big concern.  The image appeared while he was making a 180 degree turn on the boat.  They’d been rescanning the exact location for over an hour and had not been able to see a similar image again.  Michael was pretty sure the image was just an artifact in the sonar created by the turn of the boat.  As the boat makes a turn, the image on the sonar is smeared.  My heart sank.  I didn’t want it to be an artifact but I knew if Michael felt it was, it probably was.  As the disappointment began to set in, Michael began to ferry the group from the quarry bank to the boat launch at the other end.  There was no way we were going back the way we came.  As soon as the last person was safely delivered to the boat launch, I jumped back on the boat with Michael.  Even though I think we both really knew it was an artifact, we wanted to scan the area some more.  We still weren’t able to find anything that even remotely resembled what they all described.  We headed back to shore and Michael took the memory card out of the sonar so that he could pull up the image on a computer for me to see.  When the image appeared on the screen, my jaw dropped.  It was just as clear and shocking an image as they’d described.  I felt just a touch of hope again.  I asked Michael what would the odds be that an artifact in the sonar would appear in the perfect shape of a body.  A body that we were using the sonar to look for.  After seeing it myself, it was hard to believe the image wasn’t real. The major issue we were having with the sonar is that there is no scale.  We were unable to accurately assess the true size of the images we were seeing on the sonar.  As we stood on the shore, Michael made some phone calls to the manufacturer of the sonar to inquire about the potential of the boat turning creating that image as an artifact and to ask some questions about scale.  While he waited for a call back, the entire crew had an animated discussion debating whether the image was real vs an artifact.  Michael also had a hard time accepting the image was an artifact but he repeated to us all over and over again that he was pretty sure it was.  I wanted him to be wrong and I argued numerous points but deep down, I knew he was right.  Michael and I discussed what our next step needed to be.  We decided that even though we were pretty sure the image wasn’t real, we still needed to make the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office aware.  Michael made the call to Lieutenant Evans and described the situation.  Lieutenant Evans told Michael he was going to have a member of the Elmore County Dive Team come out to take a look.  The road to the quarry goes back into the woods quite a ways so I drove back out to the main road to meet him.  Kane Maklary arrived within minutes and I gave him a ride back to the quarry.  He studied the image for a bit and he too was unsure of what the image might be.  He asked that we send the image to Lieutenant Evans and he’d go back to meet with him to discuss.  By this time it was late in the day.  As I drove Investigator Maklary back to his vehicle, the rest of the crew started packing up.  I went back to the quarry and helped Michael get his boat loaded up.  We’d been searching for days.  I’d checked out of my hotel that morning and was planning to drive home that night after the quarry search but I couldn’t leave yet.  I called my husband and he found a new hotel for me to stay another night.  When I arrived at the hotel, I was exhausted, sunburned, hot, filthy, bug bitten and pretty scratched up from the trek to the quarry and we still didn’t have the answers we needed about the image.  As tired as I was, it was a restless night full of dreams about the quarry search.

 

The next morning, I met Michael for breakfast so we could discuss our next steps.  Michael had spent a lot of time reviewing the sonar images the night before and he was even more convinced that the image was an artifact.  We decided we would go get his boat and head back to the quarry.  So much time had been spent going back and forth over the same spot, there was a large area of the quarry that needed to be mapped and scanned.  We spent the day completing the original goals we had set for the quarry search.  At the end of the day, we’d learned that most of the quarry pond was found to be relatively clear of debris, with only piles of jagged rock in places. The deepest point indicated with in the pond was 45 feet deep, with the majority of the pond being fairly level at about 42 feet. There was no indication of a crane, truck, or other large equipment on the bottom of the pond.  The data from our search does not support the local lore about the location. The running depth is consistent with previous estimates of the pond’s depth by both the current and previous owners but we had two eyewitness reports of a crane being visible at the site at some point in the 1980s, and one of those also reported the “hauler” truck with wheels that stood about 6’ tall. I did make the drive home that night but Michael and I were having a hard time reconciling our findings with the eyewitness accounts about the quarry.

 

By Saturday, we decided that we needed to go back to the property and put the boat into what we were pretty positive was a pond.  Unless we cleared the pond, we knew we’d always have that little bit of lingering doubt.  I drove back to Wetumpka on Sunday morning to meet Michael at the quarry.  We did scan the pond and it didn’t take long.  We found that it was exactly what we suspected.  Just a pond.  Parts of it were only a couple feet deep and ranged up to 7 feet deep.  The largest part of the pond was 4-5 feet deep.  We now believe that a previous owner of the property may have drained the pond and removed the equipment prior to selling the land. Additional research is being conducted to confirm this and we’ll keep you updated.  As I mentioned earlier, the one issue with the sonar that we experienced as we used it to look for potential human remains is that we didn’t have a scale to give us an idea of the size of the things we were seeing on the sonar images.  Michael decided to build a dummy that he named Scuba Steve.  To demonstrate the size and appearance of submerged skeletal remains on sonar, and to show the effects of speed, angle, and movement on sonar images, he constructed Scuba Steve out of 1.5” PVC pipe.   He drilled drain holes and filled him with river rock for weight.  Scuba Steve  is 5’ 10” tall, with correct arm and leg length for an average human that size.  Michael tethered Scuba Steve to the boat, took him out on the water and tossed him in.  He then scanned the area with the sonar.  He dropped him overboard at various depths and captured sonar images so that he could get some idea of the size human remains might appear on the sonar screen.  The results were a bit surprising.  Scuba Stever appeared tiny on the sonar screen and he wasn’t even that easy to make out in some images.  After this experiment, Michael reviewed the sonar images and noted 3 things of interest on the sonar images from the quarry.

 

Michael is completing his final report on the quarry and will be sending it to the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office.  He is recommending that the quarry undergo a thorough search by law enforcement.  We will also keep you updated on this.

 

We decided we should walk the wooded acreage around the quarry to complete our search at this location.  What we found was a surprise not only to us but to the current and prior property owners as well.  Tune in for the next episode of Season 1 of Secrets True Crime to hear about this and an upcoming search as well.  I made an announcement on our social media accounts that this will be the last of our semimonthly episodes for Season 1 but the searches for Susan and Evan will go on and there will be another episode in 2-3 weeks.  We are not done but we can’t organize and search quickly enough to produce episodes on that schedule.  Also, we have selected a case for Season 2.  Michael and I are excited to announce that we will be telling the story and investigating the murder of Eric Cates and his beloved dog Gypsy.  On March 21, 2015, Eric and Gypsy, were found murdered behind the old Empire School in the tiny Walker County town of Empire, AL. Hunters found their bodies burned in the cab of Eric’s truck. Their murders remain unsolved even though the crime is rumored to have been witnessed by a large crowd of people. You won’t want to miss this shocking story.  You won’t believe that a town so small could have as many unsolved disappearances and murders as Empire.  Could some of these cases be related to what happened to Eric and Gypsy?  Season 2 will be coming very soon.  Keep a check on our social media accounts for announcements.

 

If you have any information that could help in solving the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546.  You may also email me at secretstruecrime@gmail.com.   You can stay anonymous.  I want to say thank you to those who have contacted me with information and those who’ve reached out to encourage me.  Each of you has provided a tremendous amount of help and you are making a difference in this case.  Not only am I appreciative but Susan and Evan’s families are so thankful as well.   If you are enjoying this podcast, please let us know by giving us a 5-star rating and review in Apple Podcasts.   I’m active on social media and often share photos of Susan and Evan and now of Eric and Gypsy.  Follow Secrets True Crime on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  @secretscrime. This episode was co written by me and Michael Fleming.