UNITY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Police in Westmoreland County shifted their search for a missing woman to a Unity Township cemetery Monday morning.
Cassandra Gross, of Latrobe, spoke to her mother on the phone around 3:30 p.m. on April 7. The 51-year-old hasn’t been seen or heard from since then.
Her car was found, burned, by some railroad tracks in Unity Township a few days after she disappeared, and her dog was discovered running alone along Route 30 outside of Latrobe.
One person state police investigators have concentrated their efforts on is Thomas Stanko. According to family, Stanko was the missing woman’s former boyfriend. Neighbors and family say Stanko was both physically and emotionally abusive to Gross.
Crews arrived early Monday morning to begin searching the grounds of Unity Cemetery near Stanko’s mother’s home off of White Fence Lane. Police and search teams have previously looked around the property surrounding Stanko’s mother’s home.
Search parties, including at least two cadaver dogs, covered a large area.
“We were at part of the cemetery and then the adjacent areas around it. And the reason why we were here so long is it’s very dense, the terrain we’re searching through. So that’s some of the areas. It’s hard to say a specific area, but that’s kind of the region we’ve been focusing our efforts at,” Trooper Steve Limani said.
The search wrapped up around 4 p.m., and there is no word on what, if anything, was discovered.
Stanko had a status conference hearing in the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Monday morning regarding assault charges that he faces that have yet to be adjudicated. Stanko, meanwhile, remains in the Westmoreland County Jail, held on parole violations.
Stanko, through his attorney, has repeatedly said he does not know about Gross’s whereabouts and wants to know what happened to her.
Gross’s mother told KDKA-TV’s Ross Guidotti shortly after her daughter’s disappearance that she believes her daughter is dead and Stanko murdered her.