MARK DUNCAN / AP Enlarge
UNIONTOWN, Ohio A search by about 1,400 volunteers looking for signs of a missing pregnant woman was suspended early Thursday because of a storm in the area of neighborhoods, business districts, farm fields and woods where the searchers had fanned out.
In about 4 hours of searching before the storm, people divided into groups of about 100 and walked side-by-side in lines to canvass the area around the home of 26-year-old Jessie Davis, who was last heard from June 13.
The volunteer turnout was the second-largest of 704 searches by the internationally active group Texas EquuSearch.
"I think every single rock will be turned over on this search," said organizer Tim Miller, who runs Texas EquuSearch.
Miller had expected about 200 volunteers Thursday and said he was a bit overwhelmed by the turnout. His team also brought in sonar equipment to check ponds and a remote-control airplane equipped with a camera to look for any sign of the missing woman, Jessie Davis.
Davis' younger sister, Whitney Davis, who wore a T-shirt with her sister's picture and the word "Missing" in red letters.
"They're going to help us find Jessie, hopefully, bring her back safe," she said.
Jessie Davis, 26, whose baby is due July 3, was last heard from in a phone call with her mother on June 13. Two days later, her mother checked on her home and found it in shambles, with the furniture overturned, a comforter missing and her 2-year-old grandson wandering around alone.
The little boy told investigators: "Mommy was crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in rug."
"We're holding onto that hope that maybe she's still alive out there," Miller said Wednesday. "That would be the greatest thing in the world, but realistically, we know after a period of time that that normally doesn't happen."
TOM E. PUSKAR / AP Enlarge
Cadaver dogs were sent to areas where they picked up on some odors, but nothing had been found by mid-afternoon, Miller said. "A lot of times they'll pick up on something that's not there," he said.
Miller started EquuSearch after his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, disappeared in Texas; she was found dead 17 months later. Funded through donations, the group offers search-and-rescue training and uses specialized search equipment to help recover human remains around the world and search for missing children. It has worked on hundreds of missing persons cases.
Volunteers gathered at a fire department as heavy rain fell, and they were to resume searching if the weather passed before the evening, search volunteer Chris Capozzi said.
On Wednesday, for the second time in three days, investigators searched the home of the man who fathered Davis' 2-year-old son and unborn daughter, although authorities have repeatedly said Canton police officer Bobby Cutts Jr. is not a suspect.
Cutts, 30, told The (Canton) Repository he had nothing to do with Davis' disappearance, and that he has slept little and had no appetite since the 26-year-old woman vanished.
Sheriff's investigators and FBI agents carried out more than a dozen white cardboard boxes, a few brown bags and three large black plastic bags during a search that lasted more than three hours.
A legal order allowed investigators to obtain some of Davis' cell phone records, which are being reviewed, Stark County sheriff's Chief Deputy Rick Perez said at a news conference Wednesday.
Cutts, who also has two children with his wife, Kelly, said they are separated but have not filed for divorce and that his wife knew he had a relationship with Davis.
Meanwhile, authorities said DNA tests would not be finished until next week on a newborn girl left on a porch in Wooster, about 45 miles away from Davis' home. Authorities have said they doubt that Davis gave birth to the infant, who was less than 24 hours old when she was found Monday, but they are conducting the tests to be sure.
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Davis whereabouts. EquuSearch added a $5,000 reward.
Thursday morning, the volunteers gathered near a sign that read, Pray for Jessie and her sister helped tape a missing person poster to a wall inside the fire department.
My heart goes out to them, said Lisa Dillon, 47, who took a vacation day from her state job to aid in the search. I just want to help.
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