Crime

$1,476,556, 87 Days, and 9 Other Numbers About the Landfill Search for Christine Mustafa

Volunteers search a city landfill near Gila Bend for Christine Mustafa's body.
Volunteers search a city landfill near Gila Bend for Christine Mustafa's body. Courtesy of Phoenix Police Department
The picture of Christine Mustafa’s disappearance can be painted in numbers.

The Phoenix Police Department halted its search for her body in the municipal landfill near Gila Bend and released numbers detailing the effort this week. Her former boyfriend, a 38-year-old Phoenix man named Robert John Interval, has been charged with her murder even though no body has been discovered.

Here is the search by numbers: 

click to enlarge Christine Mustafa is presumed dead. - SILENT WITNESS
Christine Mustafa is presumed dead.
Silent Witness
1,476,556: The number of dollars spent on the search.


87: Days the search lasted. Police began on October 23 and ended on January 18.

43,001,653: Pounds of rubbish shifted, sifted, and searched. That’s 21,500 tons, or the equivalent of a fleet of 116 Boeing 777 jumbo jets.

23,560: Man-hours spent searching.

278: People who volunteered. Each day, 32 were on-site.


261: Days since Christine Mustafa was last seen alive.

click to enlarge Phoenix police spent $1.2 million on heavy machinery to look for Christine Mustafa's body in a city landfill near Gila Bend. - COURTESY OF PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT
Phoenix police spent $1.2 million on heavy machinery to look for Christine Mustafa's body in a city landfill near Gila Bend.
Courtesy of Phoenix Police Department
180,107: Dollars spent on police overtime. Of this, $70,132 was spent on the search, with the rest going toward security at the landfill.

74,278: Dollars spent on various types of protective clothing, not counting another $1,226 on gloves.

27: Local restaurants, supermarkets, or individuals who brought lunch and snacks to the volunteers.

1,184,470: Dollars spent on construction services, mostly to rent and operate eight pieces of heavy machinery, such as bulldozers, graders, and excavators.
89: Percent of the trials resulting in a conviction in cases in which no body was found. For overall murder trials, the conviction rate is 71 percent.

The last numbers come from Tad DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who tried about 20 murder cases, including a successful no-body case. He has since started a website, nobodymurders.com, highlighting these kinds of crimes.

He has been impressed by the Phoenix Police Department’s effort.

“I give them kudos,” DiBiase said, calling it one of the most extensive landfill searches he’s aware of.

He also credits detectives for a “very strong case” against Interval who is in jail awaiting trial for her murder. He has pleaded not guilty.


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Sean Holstege is a freelance reporter with a 30-year career in print news. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege