News Tribune-Pierce County Edition (Final)

Published: 07-18-96

Category: Front Page

Page: A1

Keywords: Death, Child/Children, Crime, Murder, Found, Missing, Local/State, Unidentified

Image: COLOR PHOTO: Allinger

INVESTIGATOR FINDS BODY NEAR MCCHORD / IDENTIFY OF PERSON UNCLEAR UNTIL PROBE IS RESUMED TODAY (FINAL PIERCE COUNTY EDITION)
BODY MAY BE THAT OF MISSING GIRL, 9 / COVERED REMAINS DISCOVERED NEAR MCCHORD AIR BASE (EARLY PIERCE, SOUTH KING COUNTY EDITIONS)

Byline: Victor M. Gonzalez; The News Tribune

A body covered by debris was found Wednesday night near an area that had been searched repeatedly for 9-year-old Cindy Allinger.

Investigators were unsure whether the body was that of the Lakewood girl, missing since July 4.

But one deputy said, "I don't know how it could be anybody else."

The child's mother, Rhonda Plank, was informed at her home of the discovery "out of courtesy," Pierce County sheriff's Lt. Tom Miner said.

The body was found about 9 p.m. in a wooded area off 49th Avenue Southwest, a dirt road off 123rd Street Southwest, near Bridgeport Way and Interstate 5.

The area is near McChord Air Force Base and about three blocks northeast of Clover Creek, scene of repeated searches for the girl.

The body was found by a sheriff's investigator following up a lead that brought him to that specific area, Miner said.

Officials sealed off the area for the night and did not disturb the body, which was covered by debris except for a foot. The investigation will resume about 7 a.m. today. Until the body is uncovered, authorities said, they will be unable to determine its age and gender.

As sheriff's investigators and the FBI examined the area late Wednesday, neighbors gathered nearby, attracted by the many police cars and other official vehicles.

Cindy was last seen by her mother about 4:30 p.m. July 4 when she left her family's home in the Garden Court Apartments near McChord to play outside.

The slender, 4-foot tall girl was last seen wearing a floral-pattern, white dress with a full white, lace collar.

Plank began to worry about her daughter when it became dark and Cindy hadn't returned home. She reported Cindy missing that night.

In the following days, dozens of searchers checked lakes, searched woods and went door to door, looking for the child.

After no trace of her was found, authorities theorized Cindy had been abducted. The FBI offered a $5,000 reward and helped draw up a psychological profile of anyone who would commit such a crime.

Deputies interviewed a 30-year-old former neighbor whom they described as a "person of interest" in the case. Investigators were interested in the man because witnesses had told detectives he was with the girl the day she vanished.

He was not in custody late Wednesday.

The man had moved out of the girl's neighborhood two weeks before Cindy's disappearance. The child had been told to stay away from the man, though she might have visited anyway, neighbors have said.

In an interview with The News Tribune, the man said he had nothing to do with the child's disappearance and said he was not in her neighborhood on July 4.