FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – FBI agents are searching a Georgia landfill in connection with the disappearance of a 65-year-old Clay County woman who has been missing since October.
According to Clay County authorities, a contractor who Susan Mauldin hired to install tiles in her Fleming Island home, Corey Binderim, is considered a person of interest in connection with her disappearance.
Binderim, 45, is behind bars in the Duval County jail on a forgery charge unrelated to Mauldin’s case.
“When I found out I was really flabbergasted because it’s not like her at all,” said Ted Duijn, a friend of Mauldin who was shocked to learn of the search at the landfill. “It’s kind of unthinkable."
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that an evidence response team from Jacksonville was conducting a search at the Chesser Island Road landfill in support of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office investigation into Mauldin’s disappearance.
The search began Tuesday and also includes investigators from the Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office. The search could go through the end of next week, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
“Detectives from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office contacted FBI Jacksonville early in their investigation into the disappearance of Susan Mauldin to request assistance in preserving potential evidence that may have been transferred to the Chesser Island Road Landfill. We have now determined a physical search of that location could further advance our investigation," reads a statement from the State Attorney’s Office.
The statement went on the thank the experts from the FBI’s Laboratory and Technical Hazards Units who traveled from Quantico, Virginia, to assist in the search, as well as the Sheriff’s Office and FBI Jacksonville Evidence Response Teams.
FBI spokeswoman Amanda Videll said the search area is approximately the size of a baseball diamond and about 40 search members are on scene at any given time, in addition to administrative and medical staff. She said crews will take advantage of all daylight hours within a 12-hour shift.
“We will continue to search if it rains, but break if conditions such as lighting pose a danger. Once lightning passes, we will resume the search until daylight expires. We are also prepared for extreme temperatures and have temperature-controlled tents available for personnel wearing protective gear,” Videll said. “Line searchers are required to wear Tyvek protective suits, boots, gloves, glasses and respirators. FBI medical staff are on site to address any potential health issues, and experts from the FBI Technical Hazards Response Unit are monitoring site hazards.”
She said the investigators are working with landfill management to minimize the impact the search is having on normal operations at the landfill.
“We commend the management team at Chesser Island who helped identify the area where potential evidence could be and preserved the area as the investigation progressed to this point,” Videll said.
The Sheriff’s Office said there was not a specific tip that led investigators to the landfill.
The Chesser Island Road Landfill is the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office searched for the body of Joleen Cummings in 2018 without success. It’s also where Clay County Sheriff’s Office detectives found the body of 7-year-old Somer Thompson in 2009. Diena Thompson, Somer’s mother, said her heart goes out to Mauldin’s loved ones, and she encourages them to never lose hope.
“My advice would be that you’ve got to keep your chin up," Thompson said. "Just know that it’s basically in God’s hands and you just have to wait for the answers and they’re not always the answers that you want to get but, unfortunately, sometimes they’re the answers.”
PREVIOUS STORY: Landfill search hits home for Somer Thompson’s mother, sergeant
In Clay County, red evidence markers could still be seen Tuesday on the front door of Mauldin’s Fleming Island home. Nearly two dozen longtime friends and neighbors of Mauldin, including Jenet Anderson, have been hoping for answers in her disappearance. They gathered earlier this month to keep her story public.
“We’re pretty sure she’s not alive. Time has gone by so much. We still want her back. We still want closure. And she deserves that,” Anderson told News4Jax on Tuesday.
Anderson said she and other neighbors can’t understand why three months have passed with so few details beyond the naming of Binderim as a person of interest in November. At that time, homicide detectives said they learned that Binderim was hired to perform remodeling work at Mauldin’s home, but their business relationship apparently soured, and Mauldin asked for a refund.
“I think frustration is kicking in. They’re wondering why is it taking so long. You know, we see children who have been missing and killed and they seem to get the killer quickly,” Anderson said. “Here you have a senior citizen, who’s just as important as a child, and it’s taking three months.”
Mauldin’s husband passed away years ago, and her friends said she has no relatives in the United States.