Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, but still Christine DiDiano waited, hoping for some answer in the disappearance of her daughter, 19-year-old Alivia Kail of Mount Washington.
As the hours passed Thursday, Ms. DiDiano waited still.
Her vigil this day was not alone. Starting at about 9 a.m., dozens of police officers, as well as members of her family, fanned out over about 40 acres surrounding the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, searching for a trace of a woman who has not been seen or heard from since March 2011.
Investigators said a combination of interviews with witnesses and "technical details" gleaned from digital devices such as cell phones led them to believe they should search in three areas north, west and east of the airport, said Lt. Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County police.
The area around the airport includes shopping malls, restaurants and stores, but also open fields and wooded areas, and as investigators worked, Ms. DiDiano waited with her two sons in an airport parking lot for word of some discovery that might finally bring closure for her family.
Word never came. Shortly after 2 p.m., Lt. Schurman announced that the search was ending. A bone had been found, and investigators would determine whether it belonged to an animal or a human. If it's human, DNA testing would follow, but police don't believe it is related to the Kail case. Later, Lt. Schurman added that a small T-shirt had been found, but it wasn't clear whether it was a man's or a woman's or connected to the Kail investigation.
For that investigation, the search had come up empty, he said.
So Ms. DiDiano said she will wait some more.
"If today, it took till nightfall, it doesn't matter," she said after Lt. Schurman's announcement. "If they told me I had to camp for three days, I'm here. I'll always be here."
West Mifflin is where the search for Ms. Kail began.
Two years ago, Alivia Christine Kail went to the West Mifflin home of her brother, Lance, to pick up clothes she needed for a trip to Florida she was planning with her boyfriend.
That was March 4, 2011, and Ms. Kail hasn't been seen since. Police searched for her in Florida, and in the spring of 2011, they also searched property and cars associated with her boyfriend, Alexander P. Lorenzi of Esplen, who has been arrested several times since 2011 but never in connection to her case.
Ms. DiDiano has maintained, and she repeated Thursday, that she believes Mr. Lorenzi knows what happened to her daughter, but Lt. Schurman declined to name any suspects. He said Thursday that police are looking at more than one person as suspects.
Mr. Lorenzi could not be reached for comment.
Police do not know whether Ms. Kail is alive or whether she made it to Florida, but Lt. Schurman said the point of the search Thursday was to "eliminate the obvious." West Mifflin was an area of interest due to information gathered from witnesses and from digital devices such as cell phones, though Lt. Schurman would not be more specific.
Police had been hoping to receive more information that could narrow their search, but they never did.
"We've pretty much exhausted all of our investigative leads to date and decided it would be a good time to search those areas," Lt. Schurman said.
A total of 86 people joined in the search, about half of them county police cadets and the rest from Allegheny County and West Mifflin police, the medical examiner's office and local volunteer fire companies, plus Ms. Kail's two sisters and brother-in-law.
The private land outside the perimeter of the county airport was divided into three sectors and then into grids, Lt. Schurman said. The searchers, broken into teams, walked abreast in lines to look for remains, West Mifflin police Chief Ken Davies said.
At about noon, two Allegheny County police units could be seen searching in an open field called the South Taylor Environmental Park.
Plenty of poison ivy and several animal bones were found, including the one bone that was not immediately distinguishable as animal or human. Cadaver dogs alerted police to two areas of interest in the western sector, but other than the T-shirt, nothing was recovered, Lt. Schurman said.
At the end of the search, Lt. Schurman said the investigation would continue and that police could eliminate the area near the airport in future searches, unless her remains were underground.
Ms. DiDiano asked anyone with information about her daughter to come forward and said she would continue to look for Alivia, the youngest of her five children. She said the search near the airport, "a long time in the making," had not been useless.
"This isn't a loss at all," she said. "This is just a good beginning. This is truly the beginning of something we've been waiting for. I do believe the truth will place itself forward."mobilehome - neigh_city - breaking - region - neigh_south
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. First Published May 30, 2013 2:00 PM