Families allowed to dig for missing loved ones in Macomb Township

Remains found could impact chain of custody

By Shawn Ley - Reporter, Dane Sager Kelly

Police announced Tuesday that they are suspending the dig for human remains in Macomb Township after five days of searching to reassess the location and consider other places.

Brenda Handloser was not allowed to enter the dig site while police searched for the remains of her loved ones believed to be buried at the hands of a possible serial killer, Arthur Ream.

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At the time the area was a crime scene and called a grave site, but now that authorities are searching other areas, Warren police said Handloser and any other family members looking for possible victims can come to the site and dig themselves. 

Police said it's OK with the investigators and it's OK with the property owner.

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said allowing families to search would do no harm to the investigation and would help police cover the search area.

RELATED: Investigators want any victims of Arthur Ream to come forward

Law enforcement sources call the move "unusual," raising the question, does allowing family members to dig on what was a possible crime scene spoil the scene and any evidence found?

"I can understand the desire to give victim's family the ability to dig because, no doubt, if it were my child I'd want to go in there and dig with my hands," said former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

However, McQuade said if anything is found by a family member, the chain of custody for that evidence will be challenged in court by a defense attorney. There will have to be proof that the evidence wasn't planted.

"Without that carefully handled protocol for chain of custody, it could be problematic to admit it in court," McQuade said.

Those searching have been instructed by police to notify investigators immediately in the event of finding anything.

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