CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Authorities searched a wooded area in Morrow Wednesday for a woman who vanished in 1996, after someone found a key piece of evidence that broke the case open.
Sherri Vanessa Holland disappeared on her way back home to Atlanta from her Florida vacation home.
Her BMW was found abandoned by authorities on I-85 eight days later with a flat tire.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne spoke to Morrow Police Chief James Callaway when he arrived on the scene Wednesday to begin the search. The presearch briefing ended with a prayer.
“I want to pray real quick. Dear Lord, thank you for today. I pray for the dogs out there today. I pray for everybody’s safety,” Callaway said.
Clayton County sheriff's officials, the GBI and cadaver dogs were on the scene.
They were searching a creek in a wooded area near a residential area by I-75 in Clayton County.
Winne has been covering the story since Holland's disappearance and, on Tuesday, he spoke with authorities about a major break in the case.
Callaway said a tipster provided the hottest lead in the case in 20 years.
"Right now, we are headed to the search location, which is off Duffy Drive in Morrow, Georgia. It's right adjacent to I-75. There's a big plot of woods that has never been searched. Very heavy brush. We're using cadaver dogs today. This area is pretty much right next to where Sherri Holland's car was found abandoned," Callaway said before the new search began.
Callaway said the car contained a loaded gun, more than $2,400 in cash, and a purse, but no wallet.
The new tip and subsequent information led him to believe her wallet was found in recent years in a creek in the woods searchers combed Wednesday.
Adrian Uribe, the man who said he believes he found Holland's items, took Channel 2 Action News deep into the woods where authorities dug into the mystery surrounding Holland's disappearance.
"The bag was right there, right there, yeah, next to those branches right there," Uribe said.
Uribe said he used to live in the Morrow neighborhood next to the woods where the search took place.
"The bag was almost covered in sand," Uribe said
He indicated maybe a dozen years ago or so he was walking in the woods when he noticed a wallet submerged in a creek, a wallet with a woman's Florida driver's license in it.
Uribe said he had no idea the wallet might be linked to a missing persons case, but he believes recently his daughter apparently saw something about the Sherri Holland case on the internet. He believes she called in the tip that led police to the scene.
Callaway said after speaking with Uribe, he is convinced the man did find Holland's wallet.
"It’s our hope and it’s my personal prayer that we do find Sherri Holland out there in the woods to bring some closure to this family," Callaway said.
GBI Agent Fred Mays and Ken MacGillvary, formerly with Morrow Police Department, were on the case back in the day.
"It's a real case I want to solve before I retire from the GBI," Mays said.
Callaway said the dogs later hit the woods from a different angle.
"The dogs went in and alerted to the exact same location with a heavy alert," Callaway said.
But he said a subsequent search of that spot found nothing.
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