Investigators search 2 Westmoreland spots, 1 apparently for missing woman Cassandra Gross
Investigators convened at two places Thursday in Westmoreland County to search for missing women, including one who has not been seen in more than a year.
Neither search turned up a body.
Kathe and Harry Gross, the parents of missing Unity woman Cassandra Gross, waited along Beatty Flats Road while state police and a dog searched a wooded area. Kathe Gross said she was glad troopers were searching that location.
Cassandra Gross was last heard from on April 7, 2018, when she called her mother after having lunch with a friend.
State police now classify the case as a homicide.
Baxter, her blind, diabetic dog, was found two days later wandering alone in the Beatty Crossroads area. On April 10, 2018, her Mitsubishi Outlander was found burned along a rail line near Twin Lakes Park.
Troopers have been seen searching in the Unity Cemetery area and at two Unity properties owned by Thomas Stanko, 48.
Family and friends believe Stanko is responsible for Gross’ disappearance. He has maintained his innocence.
No arrests have been made in the case.
State police also assisted area dive teams in an hourslong search on a section of Brush Creek near Ardara in North Huntingdon.
It was at least the third time dive and water rescue teams looked in that section of the creek after a man reported Feb. 9 seeing what he believed to be a floating body.
North Huntingdon police Chief Robert Rizzo said authorities resumed the search Thursday because water levels had dropped. Although the water was only thigh-deep in spots, the stream was orange from acid mine drainage mixed with muddy runoff.
Rizzo said there are two missing women in Westmoreland County — Gross and a woman who apparently has been missing since a November incident in Sutersville.
Neither Rizzo nor a state police detective at the scene would identify her.
While divers plunged under the murky surface, other water rescuers walked the stream, using a long pole to prod the creek bed. One diver, Richard Banks of Monroeville, reported the water was at least 6 feet deep in a hole near a Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad bridge spanning the stream.
Rizzo said that the department is not planning “any big operations” to search for a body but will have officers check the area on normal patrols.