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Police search Otter Creek for body of missing woman

CORNWALL — On Tuesday, the Vermont State Police Scuba Team and other search-and-rescue divisions of the VSP took advantage of a low water mark in the Otter Creek to investigate a roughly six-mile stretch of the waterway near the Cornwall-Salisbury border for possible remains of Denise Hart. The 24-year-old Hartford, Conn., woman was last seen leaving a friend’s home in Sudbury on Jan. 25.
Elements of the VSP Marine Patrol launched their boats at around 9:30 a.m. into a placid creek from a parking area adjacent to the single-lane covered bridge on Swamp Road in Cornwall. It was in this parking area that state officials in February found the burned remnants of a borrowed, silver 2001 Pontiac Grand AM that Hart had been driving while in the area. State police said they became aware of Hart’s disappearance on Jan. 31.
Capt. JP Sinclair, chief criminal investigator with the VSP, told a small group of media assembled at the launch site that “foul play is strongly suspected” in the disappearance of Hart, the mother of a 3-year-old son. Sinclair read a brief statement about the search, along with a statement provided by the Hart family. Sinclair took no questions from the media, citing the VSP’s desire to not divulge anything that might compromise their ongoing investigation.
“This area has significance to this investigation,” Sinclair said of the section of the Otter Creek near the Swamp Road parking area. “Evidence has previously been recovered in this area and we return today to take advantage of certain conditions that provide investigators new opportunities to identify and potentially collect evidence. The water level in Otter Creek is at its lowest level since Miss Hart was reported missing. The search will take advantage of these conditions and afford ground teams the opportunity to access areas adjacent to the creek that have previously been unsearchable.”
Along with boats, divers and Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials, the VSP received help from several of its K-9 teams. A total of around 20 searchers participated in the day-long event, according to VSP Public Information Officer Scott Waterman. The investigation included portions of the Otter Creek in Leicester, Sudbury and Cornwall, he added.
Sinclair said the importance of the Swamp Road parking area has been confirmed through the lengthy investigation. Significant leads are still being developed in the Hart case, he added.
Authorities stressed that it would have been unlike Hart to go into hiding.
“Denise Hart had daily contact with her family, who have not heard from her since her disappearance,” Sinclair said.
He encouraged anyone with information to contact VSP Det. Sgt. Julie Scribner at 388-4919.
Sinclair also read a statement issued by Hart’s family.
“Please, anyone with information about the disappearance of Denise Hart, can you please come forth,” Sinclair read. “We know somebody out there knows something. Her friends and family are missing her desperately. She has missed so much. She has two brand new nephews she hasn’t even met yet, and she’s missed her nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays. Her own son’s fourth birthday is coming up in a few days, and she is not home.
“We don’t have any answers. It has been almost eight long, hard, desperate months, and we just want some answers, please. If anybody knows, or has seen anything, please say something. Thank you. Her son needs his mother back.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.
VERMONT STATE POLICE Capt. JP Sinclair stands near the Swamp Road Bridge in Cornwall Tuesday morning and provides an update in the search for Denise Hart, who went missing about eight months ago. At the time of Hart’s disappearance her burned-out car was found near where Sinclair addressed the media.
 
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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