HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. - There is some renewed hope for the family of Megan Pratt. The three-year-old went missing nearly two decades ago. While her step-father admitted to her murder, the child's body has never been found.
But now, there may be a new clue.
Little Megan Pratt didn't even have a chance. But now, nearly two decades after her murder, she may have a chance for a proper burial.
Using new ground-penetrating radar, Hernando County sheriff's officials said USF's anthropology team and cold case detectives found something in the dirt behind the house where Megan once lived. That dirt is now being analyzed at the school's lab.
"The family never got closure," said a neighbor, who only wanted to give her first name, Kelli. "So if it was my situation, I would want closure, just like the family would."
Kelli grew up hearing stories of Megan and her stepfather Jessie Schober. He pleaded guilty to murdering the toddler over something children do. Her mother testified Megan was splashing in the bathtub when Schober slammed her head into the porcelain.
"To hear that can happen is sad," said Kelli, who has a 6-year-old daughter.
The case is also been heart-wrenching for detectives. Schober told deputies he put Megan's body in a
sleeping bag, burned it and then buried it in their yard.
Denise Moloney with the sheriff's office said the sheriff's cold case detectives constantly keep in contact with all sources, and that includes USF's anthropology team.
"It's not that something new came up, or we got a tip and out of the blue and contacted them. Our scientific investigations unit, we maintain a relationship with them," said Moloney.
Moloney said deputies have searched the property many times. The last time was 10 years ago. But the USF team told detectives they had new equipment, ground-penetrating radar they thought could be useful. Moloney said it may have found something.
"They brought some ground-penetrating radar, and created some grids and found some anomalies in the ground," Maloney said.
Moloney stressed they don't know what it could be at this point, but the 'what if' offers some comfort for not just Megan's grandparents, but even for Kelli. She's been there for every fruitless search.
I don't mind them (detectives and USF team) coming down. Every family deserves closure," she said.
The dirt is now being analyzed in the lab. Depending on what is found, the team and detectives could be back on the property and dig up even more.
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Last week, the I-Team was there when 99-year-old Willi Berchau was released from Florida's guardianship program after a three-year court battle.