Jay Steger sat transfixed on the snowy shores of Keller Lake on Wednesday morning as cadaver dogs, one after another, skipped across the ice sniffing at more than 50 holes drilled across its white expanse to release scent from underneath.
He’d driven more than two hours from Marshfield, Wis., to Maplewood, hoping that his family’s nightmare would end with the recovery of his daughter, Kira Trevino, who’s been missing since late February and presumed dead. But by early afternoon it was clear that the joint search by St. Paul police and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office was winding down with no results.
“It’s horrible,” Steger said of the waiting and watching. “You’re hoping for the best, but you’re also preparing for the worst.
“We honestly thought that this was going to be our day so that we could get closure and get my daughter home, because that’s the most important thing to us right now, is to get her home.”
Five cadaver dogs began searching the lake at 8 a.m. for the possible scent of a body and hit on two holes drilled by sheriff’s deputies. At midmorning, authorities sent a sonar camera into a hole in the far southern end of the lake. About 12:30 p.m., they started their search of the second hole.
Divers were on call to search the lake if evidence supported such measures, but they didn’t dive Wednesday. Steger said that authorities told him and several relatives and friends that the dogs reacted but the hits weren’t “really positive.”
“We thought for sure that something was going to be here,” Steger said. “We still believe, but we’re just going to wait. We’re going to let the detectives do their job.”
Wednesday’s effort came after a large volunteer search over the weekend, and two straight days of police or sheriff’s presence at the lake. About a half-dozen “items of interest” were discovered by civilian searchers at Keller Regional Park, and sheriff’s deputies found a jacket Monday on the banks of a creek connected to the lake.
Police have not said whether any of the items are connected to the case, although major breakthroughs have been found at the park. Acting on a tip that someone saw two men on Feb. 22 carrying an item across the ice the size of a human wrapped up, family members and volunteers searched the park two weekends ago and found a plastic bag containing a pillow with blood that matched Kira Trevino’s DNA. That same weekend, volunteers discovered a hole near the lake’s western shore. Cadaver dogs were brought out and indicated that there was a scent at the hole, prompting a search by divers March 19.
Trevino, 30, was last seen Feb. 21 leaving the Mall of America with her husband, Jeffery Trevino, 39. He was arrested a few days later and charged with two counts of second-degree murder in her disappearance based on physical evidence in the couple’s home and surveillance video of someone dropping off Kira Trevino’s car at a mall ramp. Evidence from the car tested positive for human blood. Kira Trevino worked at Delia’s in the mall, and was due at work Feb. 22 and 23. Her family told police that she planned to leave her controlling husband.
Authorities believe Kira Trevino is dead based on “copious” amounts of blood found in the couple’s rented house in the 500 block of E. Iowa Avenue, about two miles from the lake.
Family and friends have scoured Keller park and several other locations in the weeks since her disappearance. Kira Trevino’s cousin Mike Teige and Steger said volunteers have made a huge difference in the case.
“Without the community, we wouldn’t be able to have these searches as we have been,” Steger said, “and I would like to thank everybody for their thoughts and their prayers and their commitment to helping the family.”
Teige was out searching Tuesday and returned Wednesday.
“She’s in this lake. There’s no two ways around it,” said Teige, who was hit hard when the search wrapped up. “It’s disappointing. I’m almost at rock bottom.”
Teige and Steger vowed not to give up until Kira Trevino is found.
“I want to see justice done, and my daughter deserves that,” Steger said.