PHOENIX (AP) - Nearing the end of a planned nine-week search of a Phoenix-area landfill for a missing 34-year-old woman believed to be a homicide victim, authorities announced Monday that the search will be extended for three more weeks.
Phoenix police have been combing through tons of trash since Oct. 23 for the remains of Christine Mustafa. She was reported missing on May 11.
Her ex-boyfriend, Robert John Interval, pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge in June. He is scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 22.
Family members told police that Mustafa feared Interval and planned to leave him. Police checking on Mustafa found her car, purse and cellphone at the couple's home.
Investigators eliminated all other possibilities before concluding that her body is likely at the landfill southwest of Phoenix.
"Our original projection of nine weeks was based on the size of the area our detectives identified as the most probable area where she is located," said Sgt. Alan Pfohl, a police spokesman. "While we have made great progress, we still have quite a bit to go and will not get through the entire identified area by this Friday.
"For this reason, we will be extending the search until we have searched the entire area. We anticipate this to take an additional three weeks," Pfohl added.
Video previously released by police showed dozens of searchers wearing rubber boots and protective clothing and face masks using long-tined rakes to examine material excavated from the landfill by a power shovel.
In 2011, authorities unsuccessfully searched a Phoenix-area landfill for the body of a 5-year-old Glendale girl who allegedly was beaten, neglected and confined to a closet before being dumped in the trash.
Jhessye Shockley's body was never found.
Her mother, Jerice Hunter, was convicted of first-degree murder and child abuse and sentenced to life in prison.