HUDSON, Ohio – Two bodies discovered in Ohio may be those of two New Hampshire children whose father confessed to killing them and burying them somewhere along a 700-mile stretch of the Midwest 2 1/2 years ago, authorities said Friday.
The mother of Sarah and Philip Gehring said she became convinced they had been found after learning the bodies bore duct-tape crosses, just like her ex-husband, Manuel Gehring, had said he had made.
According to police and the FBI, a dog that bolted from its owner during a walk Thursday found a shallow grave containing two bodies wrapped in plastic near Interstate 80.
Scott Wilson, a spokesman with the FBI's Cleveland office, said he could not comment on the gender or age of the bodies, but added: "We're looking into the possibility the bodies might be linked to those missing kids."
New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin planned to fly to Ohio on Friday to compare teeth from the bodies with the Gehring children's dental records.
If tests confirm the remains are those of the Concord, N.H., children, the discovery will end a long and frustrating search across five states.
Sarah, 14, and Philip, 11, were shot to death by their father as he fled across the country with amid a custody dispute with his wife in July 2003. Manuel Gehring confessed to the slayings but strangled himself in prison before he could be tried.
Gehring had told police he buried the children somewhere along a stretch of interstate between Pennsylvania and Iowa, but he could not pinpoint the spot.
The bodies found Thursday were along a muddy service road near an above-ground gas pipeline about two miles from an interstate interchange near Hudson, about 20 miles southeast of Cleveland.
Hudson Police Chief David Robbins said the area has several items mentioned by the father, including a makeshift cross, bell-shaped concrete sewer connectors, a fence and a wood pile.
Gehring had said he wrapped his children in plastic and buried them with duct-tape crosses on their chests. He was arrested in California a week after the children disappeared.
Teri Knight, Gehring's ex-wife and the children's mother, has dealt with numerous false reports about her children, but on Friday, she said, a woman called her from the New Hampshire attorney general's office and described the duct-tape crosses.
"When she told me that, that's what did it," Knight said.
She and her husband said they had searched within five miles of Hudson earlier this fall.
Previous extensive searches had turned up no evidence of the graves, and some officials weren't convinced they would ever finding the bodies.
"I'm numb," Knight said from her home in Hillsboro, N.H., where she was watching news reports. "We've learned to take things sometimes week-to-week and month-to-month, and today it's minute-to-minute."
Gehring, an unemployed accountant, had been locked in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, who had remarried.
The children were last seen arguing with their father at a July Fourth fireworks display. Gehring said he pulled off the highway later that night and shot them, then drove for hours with their bodies in his van.
In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey did a pollen analysis on soil found under Gehring's minivan and near the shovel used to bury the children. It concluded that the soil most likely came from northeastern Ohio.
News of the discovery filtered through Concord High School, where Sarah had been a freshman cheerleader described by a teacher as "a can of Coke all shook up and opened at full blast."
"She was so funny. She could brighten up your day," said her friend Ally Smith, now a senior.
Word that Sarah and Philip may have been found "brings back a lot for me," Smith said. "Not really the good memories I have but the bad ones of when it happened."