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Search for Fort Atkinson girl's remains could wrap up Friday

By Nico Savidge

JANESVILLE—Authorities could soon call off their efforts to find a Fort Atkinson girl who went missing more than 60 years ago, a search leader said, after a third unsuccessful day of work on the northeast side of Janesville on Wednesday.

Crews have been digging and sifting through a vacant lot at the intersection of Wright and Rotamer roads since Monday, looking for remains of 8-year-old Georgia Jean Weckler, who disappeared in 1947.

Their efforts had not turned up any evidence in the case as of Wednesday afternoon, said Capt. Todd Christiansen of the Rock County Sheriff's Office.

Friday could be the last day of searching if nothing is found, he said.

The search began after a man contacted police and the sheriff's office last week, telling them Weckler could be buried in the lot, Christiansen said. Authorities have released little other information about the tipster.

Archival maps from the 1940s show the area was a sparsely populated part of rural Rock County—a far cry from the suburban neighborhood that has replaced it today.

Investigators have not given any information about what the man may have seen at the site or why he came forward 66 years after Weckler went missing.

They have only described him as an older Rock County man.

“We are not releasing his name at this point,” Christiansen said, in part because he is not considered a suspect in the case.

No results after three days looking

Wednesday's work started about 8:30 a.m., Christiansen said, and crews expanded their search on a grid that authorities created on the property.

With the help of a city-owned backhoe, brought in Tuesday to help crews move faster, they hope to finish digging up and sifting through four of the 24 grid squares by Thursday, he said.

So far, the work has proved fruitless, as workers have failed to find any human remains.

If the search continues that way, it won't last much longer. Authorities will re-evaluate the effort and likely end it on Friday unless evidence turns up, he said.

That means crews will probably search about one-third of their target area, Christiansen said.

“We're not going to dig up the whole grid,” he said.

Area was rural, with few homes, in 1940s

It's hard to find the intersection of Rotamer and Wright roads on the 1940 Rock County Farm Plat Book because the roads didn't meet at the time.

Though it's now at the fringe of Janesville, the property authorities have spent three days searching was miles from the city limits when Weckler disappeared in 1947, sitting instead in the town of Harmony.

Streets crisscross the land today, covering it in newly built homes and apartment buildings.

In the '40s, though, Wright Road ended a couple of miles south of Rotamer, and a common frame of reference—Interstate 39/90—hadn't been built.

Just four buildings sat along the lonely stretch of Rotamer Road between Highway 26 and Harmony Town Hall Road.

Capt. Jerry Haferman of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said Monday that the man told police he saw suspicious activity in the area around the time Weckler disappeared and “put two and two together.”

If Weckler was buried there, the closest homes would've been more than a tenth of a mile away, archival farm maps show.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore talked with the tipster when he contacted police last week but referred any questions about the investigation to the sheriff's office.

Christiansen declined to give specifics on what the man may have seen or why he believed human remains were on the property.