FORT FAIRFIELD – Almost eight weeks after a 3-year-old girl went missing, police believe officials may have recovered the body of Alexandria Winship-Wright at Tinker Dam in New Brunswick.
The body of a young female was found at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday on a ledge of the dam wall, Fort Fairfield Patrol Detective Stan Nicholson, lead investigator on the case, said Tuesday.
Police believe the child’s body must have been pinned against the dam wall when the Aroostook River was flowing rapidly this spring, but that it became exposed after waters receded.
Nicholson said police would not confirm the identity of the body until DNA tests were complete, but that Winship-Wright was the only one they have been looking for along that section of the Aroostook River.
The little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl known as “Allie” has been missing since April 25.
The little girl’s mother, Mandy Wright of Fort Fairfield, told officials that she had stepped away to use the bathroom and when she returned, her daughter was gone. Police believe the little girl trudged to the river, located about 50 yards from her back door, and was swept away by the fast-moving river and drowned.
Until Tuesday, however, the only thing searchers had found were her pink boots.
Because the body was found in New Brunswick, it was taken Tuesday afternoon to a hospital in Perth Andover, N.B. Nicholson said the body would be taken Wednesday to St. John, N.B., for an autopsy and DNA tests.
“We’re relieved,” he said of the likelihood that searchers have found Winship-Wright, “but the case is not over.”
Nicholson said the body was found using high-resolution photographs taken Sunday by Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, a nonprofit, all-volunteer search and rescue team with about 100 members.
Using high-resolution digital technology, DEEMI members Gary Soucy and Al Jenkins flew over three miles of the Aroostook River, from Fort Fairfield to Tinker Dam, and took 550 images of the search area. DEEMI officials previously had taken pictures on June 2, but this flight was part of a larger search effort. DEEMI, Winship-Wright’s family, and other search crews swept both sides of the river through Fort Fairfield and New Brunswick over the weekend.
Though they didn’t find anything over the weekend, DEEMI processed the images and officials have been looking through them for any sign of the little girl. Richard Bowie, DEEMI director, said Tuesday evening that on day two of poring over the images, he spotted a little blue object in a triangle of debris caught up on a ledge of the dam wall. The object was in the impound area of the dam, in a spot where the spillway and the dam wall meet. Bowie said searchers just had been talking with dam officials about where an object could have gotten hung up. So they called officials and asked if a worker could “lean over the edge of the railing and take a peek.”
That’s when they found the child’s body, clad only in a pair of blue jeans.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recovered the body. Officials with the Maine Warden Service crossed the border to monitor the recovery of the little girl.
While everyone is waiting for final identification, Bowie said that he had talked with the family and that finding the body had eased some pain.
“It’s a good thing for the searchers and the family to have closure,” he said. “They [search crews] worked very hard at ending this for the family.”
He added, though, that the girl’s family is entering a new stage of grief.
“The family is relieved but very emotional and upset because it’s finally a known to deal with,” he said. “That’s the hardest thing to deal with, to know that your child or grandchild is gone.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.