Winnipeg police will undertake the monumental task of searching for the remains of Tanya Jane Nepinak, believed to be buried deep within the Brady Road Landfill.

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Winnipeg police will undertake the monumental task of searching for the remains of Tanya Jane Nepinak, believed to be buried deep within the Brady Road Landfill.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill said Wednesday the search for Nepinak's remains will likely cost more than $500,000, could take several months, and has less than a five per cent chance of success, adding, however, it must be done for her family's sake.

Tanya Jane Nepinak

Tanya Jane Nepinak

McCaskill said finding the remains would benefit the criminal case against Nepinak's alleged killer, but added it's being done primarily to help her family and friends.

"It's the right thing to do," McCaskill said. "If this were your daughter, what would you expect? The whole idea is to search the best we possibly can to bring some closure to the family... We have to do as much as we possibly can to recover the remains."

Shawn Lamb, a 52-year-old drifter and career criminal, was charged in late June with three counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Nepinak, 31, Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.

The body of Sinclair was found in March in a garbage bin in a back lane near Notre Dame Avenue and Toronto Street. The body of Blacksmith was discovered in June near a garbage bin, wrapped in plastic.

Nepinak is believed to be the first of the three women killed. Police believe she died shortly after she disappeared in September.

Sources said Lamb initially reported finding Sinclair's body in March and then, after he was arrested as a suspect in a sexual assault in late June, confessed to Blacksmith's murder and took police to her body. Sources said Lamb then confessed to killing Sinclair and Nepinak.

McCaskill said investigators believe Nepinak's body was placed in a garbage bin in September and the bin's contents were emptied into a garbage truck and later dumped, along with the rest of its contents, at the Brady Road Landfill.

McCaskill said the area in the landfill where Nepinak's remains are believe to be was secured and closed off while police tried to determine if it was possible to recover her body.

Nepinak's remains are believed to be buried under eight metres of garbage, somewhere in an area 100 metres by 20 metres by five metres deep.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill announces details of the landfill search.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Police Chief Keith McCaskill announces details of the landfill search.

McCaskill said police have searched the landfill site before, but added this is different, and more difficult, because of the 101/2 months that have elapsed since Nepinak's remains were placed there.

Since Lamb was charged with the three homicides at the end of June, Winnipeg police consulted the FBI, the RCMP and several anthropologists, McCaskill said, to determine how a search of a landfill could be done and the chances of success.

"We are pleased to say there is an opportunity, at least a chance, a slight chance, of recovering something. We've got to take every step that we possibly can," he said.

McCaskill said the FBI had identified 20 similar landfill searches and victims' remains were found only in two of those searches.

McCaskill said the cost of the search will easily be in excess of $500,000, which he estimated will simply be the expense of removing the initial layer of garbage.

A good search will need 250 people, he said, but added he doesn't know yet whether these individuals would be police, cadets, volunteers or others.

McCaskill said it's not certain how long the search could take.

"This is something that potentially will take a long time to complete but we've got to do it right," he said. "We could get lucky and find something right away or it could take months."

The logistics of the search will be complex, McCaskill said, adding both Mayor Sam Katz and Justice Minister Andrew Swan have been briefed.

McCaskill said the Nepinak family and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have been told of the complexities of the search.

"It's a huge, huge task."

How they'll search for Tanya Jane Nepinak

THE woman's remains are believed buried beneath an eight-metre-thick layer of garbage at the Brady Road Landfill.

The remains have been there for 101/2 months.

Her remains are somewhere below that layer, in an area believed to be 100 metres long by 20 metres wide by five metres deep.

Heavy equipment will remove the initial eight-metre-thick layer from an area about the size of two football fields side by side (100 metres by 200 metres).

To ensure searchers are not exposed to any health risks or physical danger, garbage in the suspect area will then be removed to a clean site where the debris will be searched by hand.

It will require 250 searchers, working by hand, combing through the garbage.

The cost of the search is estimated to exceed $500,000.

The pending search is not the first time law enforcement has looked for -- or found -- human remains in a landfill.

In 2008, police launched a search for the body of Jacinto Eduardo Etcheverry, 46.

Jonathan Anders Muzychka pleaded guilty to strangling Etcheverry during a robbery in July 2008. He then stuffed the man's body into a duffel bag and threw it in a garbage bin behind the victim's Wolseley apartment.

Police searched Brady Road Landfill for several months. The search cost the City of Winnipeg more than $100,000 before it was called off.

Last year, human remains were found in a landfill in the RM of Rosser. RCMP identified the man as Kenneth Alfred Knott, 48, of Winnipeg. Police believe the man went into a garbage bin and was transported to the Rosser landfill. He was not reported missing.