A bloodhound locates a child’s body, but her killer has never been identified.
On May 18, 1993, police in Englewood, Colorado, searched door-to-door for five-year-old Alie Berrelez. Alie was last seen playing in the courtyard of the apartment complex where she lived. Her baby-sitter had gone inside for a few minutes. By the time she came back, Alie was gone.
The search dragged on for four days without a single clue. Finally, the police turned to an age-old crime-fighting tool: bloodhounds. When it comes to tracking missing persons or criminals, a bloodhound named Yogi is one of the best.
Yogi and his handler, K9 officer Jerry Nichols, went to work. The dog took Alie’s scent from clothing she had recently worn, then started moving.
First Yogi went up the stairs, zeroing in on a single apartment. It was Alie’s home, and it was a good sign. Yogi was on the right track.
Richard Berrelez, Alie’s grandfather, had high hopes:
Yogi led Jerry out of the apartment complex and south down the street. A media crush followed close behind, recording every move. The dog paid no attention at all, which is typical of bloodhounds, according to Jerry:
A scent trail, whether animal or human, comes from thousands of dead skin cells that are constantly being shed. Jerry explains that unless those cells are swept away by severe weather, the scent could remain for up to a month:
As the hound followed Alie’s scent, Jerry quickly recognized that his canine partner was working a familiar pattern:
Unbelievable as it seems, we leave scent trails even from moving cars. The skin cells shoot out through the car’s ventilation and exhaust system and are deposited on the side of the road. Jerry says it’s an easy pick up for the nose of a bloodhound:
Yogi was relentless. He tracked south for several miles, covering almost 40 city blocks. At the entrance to a freeway, he headed straight up the westbound ramp.
That was a turning point for Englewood Police Detective Rick Forbes:
The search party drove west to the next exit. Jerry wondered if the scent trail would lead the dog further down the freeway or off the exit ramp:
To speed up the search, police skipped the fourth exit and moved on to the fifth. Yogi made it quite clear. They had overshot the mark. The scent was gone. They backtracked to the previous exit. The hound again picked up the scent. But this time, he led the search party off the freeway, toward a wooded area called Deer Creek Canyon.
By now, Yogi had been tracking Alie over city streets, parking lots, and freeways for more than seven hours. He had covered nearly 14 miles. Jerry noticed signs Yogi was tiring:
Yogi’s strength was failing. Still, he wouldn’t abandon the search. Reluctantly, Jerry made the decision to give Yogi some rest:
With Yogi sidelined, human volunteers picked up the search. It wasn’t long before they knew why Yogi had refused to quit. The body of Alie Berrelez was less than two miles from the point where the dog had been forced to stop.
Without Yogi’s persistence, Alie’s body would never have been discovered. But it was not the result Jerry Nichols had hoped for:
Investigators believe Alie’s killer may have lived in her apartment complex or visited someone who lived there.
Alie’s murder was solved, 18 years later. The killer was a neighbor, Nick Stofer. His DNA samples matched those found on Alie’s remains. Stofer died in 2001, and this case has been closed.