Search Ends Tragically

A week of searching came to an end Wednesday. A body, believed to be that of 20-year-old Janelle Hornickle, was recovered near 256th and Platteview Road. She had been missing along with her friend Michael Wamsley since last week's snowstorm. They're seen here in a photograph by Mitch Otto of Ceresco, Nebraska.

Ms. Hornickel's mother confirmed that authorities told her Wednesday they believed they had found Janelle's body.

"We needed this. We needed to find her," Twila Hornickel said.

Michael Wamsley's body was recovered last Friday. Law enforcement search teams and volunteers had since been looking for Ms. Hornickel.

The outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous and so many volunteers turned out to help search last weekend that many had to be turned away.

A relative of Janelle's says, "We have felt nothing but generosity from everyone and it's helped us through the sad times."

What might never be known is how Mr. Wamsley and Ms. Hornickel wound up lost in a desolate area of Sarpy County.

The two had been in contact with authorities by cell phone early last Wednesday. Around 2 a.m. they called authorities and said that they were lost. They eventually became separated from their pickup truck which was later found stuck in the snow.

During a news conference after the discovery of Ms. Hornickle's body, authorities said that prior to the phone contact at approximately 2 a.m. on January 5, the couple had been in Geneva, Nebraska approximately 70 miles southwest of Lincoln.

Geneva Police Chief Travis Cunningham tells Channel 6 News that the couple was returning from their hometown of Ord, headed to Omaha, when they were pulled over in Geneva.

It's not clear why they were 20-miles south of Interstate 80 during a snowstorm.

An officer stopped them because the driver's side taillight was out. After issuing a fix-it ticket, police learned the couple was lost.

Chief Cunningham says, "At one point, she had a map open and she said they were trying to get to Omaha and asked which way to go."

The chief said Michael and Janelle did not seem disoriented.

"Not at all," Chief Cunningham said. "It seemed like any other traffic stop."

The Geneva police officer escorted the couple to the highway and pointed them towards Interstate 80.

In normal conditions, it would have then taken them less than two hours to get to Omaha. Four hours later, their truck was stuck on a private gravel road in Sarpy County.

They made a cell phone call for roadside assistance but as 911 soon found out, they were never able to give anyone a clear idea of where they were.

Janelle Hornickle's body was found one day after Michael Wamsley's funeral.

Janelle was a junior at Creighton University and worked part-time at a telemarketing company Timberline Total Solutions in Omaha.

Michael grew up on a farm near Ord and most recently was working as a landscaper in the summer and doing some temporary work in the winter at the same company for which Janelle worked.

Sarpy County authorities will continue their investigation.

Chief Deputy Jeff Davis says the big questions now include, "How did they get to where they were? Why were they there?" But he says those questions might never be answered.

WOWT NBC Omaha 3501 Farnam Street Omaha, NE 68131 (402) 346-6666
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 1342301 -
Gray Television, Inc.