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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

Police search fails to locate pair's bodies

Sheriff's Deputy Tom Haulund studies one of the sites being searched east of Eber Road in Lucas County. Sheriff's Deputy Tom Haulund studies one of the sites being searched east of Eber Road in Lucas County.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

After searching 64 square miles in northwest Ohio for two days, law enforcement officers came up empty in their hunt for two New Hampshire children possibly buried here.

Jeffery Strelzin, New Hampshire's assistant attorney general, hoped to find the bodies of Sarah Gehring, 14, and her brother, Philip, 11, buried in a shallow grave. The man authorities believe put them there, their father, Manuel Gehring, is in custody in New Hampshire, charged with murder.

Authorities believe Mr. Gehring, 44, disposed of the bodies between July 5 and July 6 on his way across the country. He was arrested in California.

But local law enforcement officers from 13 agencies found nothing during searches around the Ohio Turnpike at Toledo Express Airport and near Reynolds Road.

Despite the disappointment, Mr. Strelzin declined to rule out the area as a possible grave site for the children and said this fall may be a better time to search for remains. He said this portion of the investigation was closed, but he left the door open for future searches.

“You never want to say an area is 100 percent out,” he said. “Later in the fall, hunters will be in the woods, and some of the tall grass will be beaten down. Some law enforcement people here think that may be the best time to look.”

Mr. Strelzin said the FBI will resume a search today, going exit by exit along the turnpike. He said agencies here will continue to check on tips.

He said officers searched an area in Fulton County which had cement cylinders, one of the indicators law enforcement officers were looking for, but did not turn up the bodies.

“We have received a lot of calls about that site,” Mr. Strelzin said. “I think people read about the cylinders and didn't remember the other indicators. We looked at a number of promising sites, but none had many of the things we were looking for.”

Mr. Strelzin said he had been in contact with Mr. Gehring's ex-wife and informed her about the search.

“She's taking it very well, considering what she is going through,” Mr. Strelzin said. “If we would have found something, she would have been one of the first people to know.”

He said he was not disappointed in the search because of the cooperation of the law enforcement agencies and believes it's just a matter of time before they find the bodies.

In the meantime, Mr. Strelzin said the attorney general's office will move forward with its prosecution of Mr. Gehring, and believes they have a strong case without the bodies.

“Of course, we would like to find them,” Mr. Strelzin said. “As a prosecutor, you always want more evidence, but this will not hamper our case against Mr. Gehring.”



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