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Garza search switches gears, reward offered

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By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — Less than a week since the Middlebury Police Department invited the Texas search and rescue squad EquuSearch to join the ground search for missing Middlebury College freshman Nicholas Garza, the effort was called off until the snow pack melts.

In the meantime, Middlebury authorities have expanded the missing person investigation, according to police Chief Tom Hanley, and an outside group is offering a reward for information leading to Garza’s discovery.

In an effort to better understand the 19-year-old’s frame of mind on Feb. 5 — the night he went missing — the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Behavioral Analysis Unit has joined the investigation. Using information Middlebury investigators gathered from people who knew Garza, the unit will build a psychological profile that could shed light on decisions the student might have made that night.

“With the FBI, we try to get inside Nicholas’ head,” Hanley said.

Behavioral analyses like this one are usually employed to locate criminals, Hanley said. When investigators understand how a criminal’s brain works, they can determine what he might have done or where he might have gone.

Hanley said the FBI showed considerable interest in the Garza case and they believe the process could shed some light on Garza’s whereabouts.

The behavioral analysis will come at no cost to the Middlebury Police Department, since the unit uses these cases to validate their data, Hanley said. But the Garza investigation is taking a toll on the department’s resources in other ways.

Currently, three Middlebury officers are working on the case, while another is on a Vermont Air Guard deployment.

“That leaves us a grand total of six officers left (to handle other matters),” Hanley said.

Next week, Hanley plans to supplement the staff with two more investigators, which will be contracted from another department.

“Some of the things we want to do (with the investigation) are very time consuming,” he said. “The other two people will help us do some long-term legwork.”

When the snow melts, the Vermont State Police will return to comb over the Middlebury campus once again, and EquuSearch will reassess the situation and determine whether it can contribute to the search.

The Middlebury College departments of Public Safety and Facilities Services recently completed another search of the buildings and roofs on campus, but found nothing.

Together with the Carole Sund/Carrington Foundation, Natalie Garza — Nicholas’ mother who has been living in college housing since she flew in from her hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., on Feb. 11 — is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of her son.

In the event that Garza was murdered, the reward will be payable for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the crime.

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