COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia police investigators are working with the city utility department to try to plan a search through more than a decade's worth of waste, according to Columbia Police Department Lt. Matt Stephens.
The search for Megan Shultz, who was reported missing in 2006, was rekindled this week after her former husband, Keith Comfort, allegedly confessed to her murder over the weekend. Boone County prosecutors charged Comfort with second-degree murder on Monday.
Comfort told police in his new hometown of Wisconsin that he strangled Shultz to death during an argument, dumped her body in a nearby dumpster and then reported her as missing.
Officers are now determined to find evidence of the murder.
CPD officers are working with the solid waste utility to try to pinpoint a location where the garbage truck could have dumped Shultz's body 13 years ago, said CPD spokesman Jeff Pitts.
Stephens and a spokesperson for the city utility company said her body would have been moved there if Comfort's alleged confession is true.
Stephens said he and the department are working to focus in particular areas of the landfill, which covers more than 50 acres of land, according to the utility company spokesperson.
“Do they have certain trucks that dump in certain areas? Do they have certain times of years that they use certain areas? What does that look like? From the Police Department standpoint, I have no idea what that looks like.”
Despite Comfort's alleged confession, it's not clear if police or prosecutors have evidence that Shultz was killed.
Bill Tackett, a former Cole County prosecuting attorney, said it's impossible to convict someone of murder without proof that the victim was killed. Such evidence most commonly comes in the form of a body or murder weapon, Tackett said.
“We have confessions that are later found out to be false," Tackett said. “You've got to pass the threshold of beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed a crime.”
Tackett said it's possible for a judge to accept circumstantial evidence as proof that the crime, in this case murder, was committed.
Comfort was still in custody in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. Stephens said it's not clear when he could be transferred to Boone County.
If the search for Shultz's body turns up nothing, Stephens said officers have other leads to pursue.
"Follow everything you can until there’s nothing left to follow. That’s how we want to do business, and we try to do business. Hopefully there’s a sense of closure for her family," Stephens said.