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FBI Probes Ore. Missing Girls Case

August 24, 2002

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OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) _ FBI agents were given authority to search the home of a rape suspect for evidence related to the disappearance of two neighbor girls.

Ward Weaver, a 39-year-old single father who knew both Miranda Gaddis and Ashley Pond, has previously identified himself as a suspect in their disappearance.

The two 13-year-old girls, friends who lived in the same apartment complex near Weaver’s home, vanished within two months of each other last winter.

Police quickly erected a chain-link fence with yellow police tape around Weaver’s house late Friday. FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said the search would begin Saturday morning.

She did not specify whether authorities would dig up a concrete slab Weaver poured in his back yard soon after the girls disappeared. Weaver said he poured the concrete as a base for a hot tub. Family and friends of the girls had asked the police to dig it up.

Weaver was evicted from the single-story house after his arrest July 13 on an unrelated rape charge. He has pleaded innocent to charges he raped his son’s 19-year-old girlfriend.

Don Martin, Ashley’s grandfather, said his family was shocked by Friday’s announcement. ``We’re nervous wrecks now,″ he said.

``At least now, we will know one way or another,″ he said.

Ashley disappeared Jan. 9. She was last seen eating breakfast with her younger sister and was to walk about eight minutes to a bus stop near Weaver’s home. Michelle Duffey, Miranda’s mother, last saw her daughter in a bathrobe eating breakfast on March 8.

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