BUTTE - A large unkindness of ravens circled over the heads of officers as they sifted through weeks-old trash with rakes and shovels in the Butte landfill Wednesday - looking for the body of a missing Anaconda woman.
Anaconda Police Chief Tim Barkell said his officers, acting on a tip from an Anaconda sanitation worker, could be at the landfill for weeks in search of the remains of 41-year-old Tammy Salle.
The tip came last week when the sanitation worker told police they picked up an unusually heavy trash receptacle on Dec. 24. Family first reported Salle missing to police on Dec. 26.
The worker reported that the hydraulic lift on the garbage truck had difficulty raising the bin. Trash from that bin was taken to the portion of the Butte landfill where Anaconda garbage is deposited.
That particular bin was found in the area of other receptacles where police discovered bloody towels and rugs that may be linked to Salle's disappearance.
The police chief said it isn't a solid lead, but it's the best tip investigators have had in the weeks since Salle was reported missing.
"For the family's sake, I told the family we'd follow up on all leads, and this is what we're doing," Barkell told The Montana Standard on Wednesday at the landfill.
Anaconda police are receiving assistance in the landfill search from Butte law enforcement and agents with the Montana Department of Justice. Searchers on Wednesday endured cold temperatures, strong winds and the putrid odors of decaying trash as they dug through the garbage. The effort started Tuesday, and so far 70 tons of garbage has been gone through. Earth movers dig up the garbage and spread it for the searchers to comb through.
The day Salle was reported missing on Dec. 26, officers questioned her boyfriend, John Goldberg, who said they had a fight three days earlier. She had left in a 2009 Pontiac Grand Prix, which was later located abandoned on a frontage road south of Deer Lodge with a shredded tire.
Authorities found Goldberg, 38, dead on Dec. 29 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his pickup at a truck stop west of Missoula. His suicide note gave no indication of Salle's whereabouts.
Barkell told the Standard Wednesday that a kitchen knife was in a bag that contained bloody towels and rugs. That kitchen knife matched those in a block set found in the Hickory Street home where Salle and Goldberg lived. The knife and other evidence have been sent to the Montana Crime Lab in Missoula.
The lab confirmed last week that blood on one of the towels matched Salle's blood.
Anaconda police and volunteers have been searching in and around Anaconda for Salle since she was first reported missing. Searches focused on areas where Goldberg routinely hunted and camped, but Barkell said no sign of the missing woman has been found.