GREENTOWN, Ohio - Janet Peterson trembles slightly when she explains what brought her and her husband to the fire station at 7 yesterday morning.
"We have daughters,'' she says, her eyes filling. "I kept watching TV. I just couldn't stand it anymore. So here we are. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't come here.''
Some 800 people joined the Uniontown, Ohio, couple to sweep the fields in northern Stark County, searching for any sign of what happened to Jessie Davis, the 26-year-old mother who disappeared a week ago, not long before she was due to deliver a daughter she planned to name Chloe.
The Stark County Sheriff's Office released no new information yesterday about progress in its investigation into the young woman's disappearance, except to confirm that the infant found on the doorstep near Wooster, Ohio, was not Ms. Davis' child.
Near a wooded dry stream bed in Plain Township, volunteer Cathy Gough of the Central Ohio Mounted Search Unit looks for clues to the disappearance of 26-year-old Jessie Marie Davis.
The Wayne County Sheriff's Office said it identified that infant girl's mother, who abandoned the baby after giving birth in a hotel.
The news brought "a sigh of relief" to Ms. Davis' family, said 20-year-old Whitney Davis, the missing woman's sister. "We're relieved that's not my sister's baby."
In the meantime, all over northern Stark County, volunteers tromped through woods, fields, and farms on foot, on horseback, and with specially trained dogs, looking for some clue to Ms. Davis' disappearance.
Buses ran regularly from the fire station carrying groups of 50 searchers, who split into groups of 10 and fanned out.
Volunteer searcher Greg Kenepp of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, makes his way into a clearing while looking for clues.
The Petersons were among the first 100 searchers of the day, dropped off on Applegrove Street near St. George Serbian Orthodox Church.
"It's hurry up and wait,'' Mrs. Peterson said as she walked the roadside and was met by groups of other searchers who'd been told to turn back.
Larry Powell of Alliance, Ohio, who grew up in North Canton, Ohio, grew impatient with the confusion.
He had come to the fire station early Thursday morning, only to wait around until noon before his group was deployed to the field.
"Let's go. What are we waiting for?" he asked yesterday while a long line of people threaded into the fire station to register as searchers.
"I know it's a hard thing to put together,'' he said. "But we've been here since 7 o'clock and we're still standing around. So much wasted time. We got here at 7:30 [Thursday] and we didn't get out of here until noon. It's ridiculous.
Yesterday, though, his group was out to Applegrove Road by 9:30 a.m. But confusion continued. The group was sent in one direction, then called back and sent down the road, then called back again and sent out into the field. Even then, there was no general agreement on which path they were to take.
In the meantime, Richard Willaman, a member of the same group, inspected a mowed field and came to a stop.
There he remained, walking stick in hand, waiting for someone to notice him there.
On the grass at his feet were six gold-colored metal bracelets. They may be meaningless. They may not be. In searches like this, all kinds of things turn up, a sheriff's spokesman said.
Mr. Willaman's find was marked with orange stakes, and the group moved on.
On the other side of the field, just inside some trees, more orange stakes went up around freshly disturbed earth and leaves.
Again, no one was sure the find meant anything, but the stakes ensured that it would be investigated.
But news was being made elsewhere, when Ms. Davis' mother, Patricia Porter, said she considers the baby's father, Canton police Officer Bobby Cutts, Jr., a possible suspect.
Mrs. Porter made her comment during an appearance yesterday on the Today show.
"I still pray that it's not him," she said.
"That doesn't mean that I don't think he's a suspect as well."
The Stark County Sheriff's Office has named no suspects.
Chief Deputy Rick Perez said yesterday, "We have not ruled anybody out. We're still looking at everybody."
On Wednesday, investigators searched Mr. Cutts' home, removing more than a dozen cardboard boxes, a few brown bags, and three large, black plastic bags.
Mr. Cutts, 30, has denied involvement in Ms. Davis' disappearance.
He said he talked to Ms. Davis the night before she was discovered missing. He played softball that evening and then went to a tavern, where surveillance cameras showed he left about 12:30 a.m.
Mr. Cutts is married but has said he is getting a divorce. He also said his wife was aware of his relationship with Ms. Davis and knew that he was the father of Ms. Davis' 2-year-old-son Blake and the unborn baby.
The 2-year-old was found abandoned in Ms. Davis' home June 15.
The house was disheveled, with furniture overturned and a pool of bleach on the floor.
The boy may have witnessed what happened to his mother. He reportedly told investigators: "Mommy was crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in rug."
Ms. Porter told the Today show that Blake "has periods where he just lays his head down on the couch and has this horrible look of sadness, and then the next moment he'll have this big, beautiful smile. He really is what keeps us going."
Contact Jenni Laidman at:
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