HUDSON, Ohio – Two small bodies found buried off Interstate 80 with duct-tape crosses over them were identified Saturday as the New Hampshire siblings killed by their father 2 1/2 years ago, authorities announced.
Dental records confirmed that the bodies are those of Sarah Gehring, 14, and her brother, Philip, 11, said Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler.
"It's just been truly this unbelievable burden not having them found, and so that does feel like somewhat of a relief," the children's mother, Teri Knight, said Saturday. "It's tough, but it's better than not knowing where they are."
A woman walking her dog had discovered the children's shallow grave on Thursday in a wooded area near Hudson, about halfway between Cleveland and Akron. The area closely fit the clues the children's father had given authorities before killing himself, from the makeshift cross in a rural area near a highway to the bell-shaped concrete sewer connectors, fence and wood pile nearby.
Manuel Gehring had also told authorities he wrapped his children in plastic and buried them with duct-tape crosses on their chests.
The children disappeared Gehring in 2003 amid a custody dispute. They were last seen arguing with him at a July Fourth fireworks display in Concord, N.H. Gehring later said he had pulled off a highway that night and shot the children, then drove for hours with their bodies in his van before burying them.
After Gehring was arrested in California, he told investigators he couldn't remember where he had buried the bodies. He gave vague clues that led to repeated searches along a 700-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.
"He told the FBI that he doubled back and he turned left and right here and there," David Ruoff, an assistant New Hampshire attorney general, said Saturday. "He just didn't tell us what exit he took."
Gehring strangled himself in prison before he could be tried.
In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey did a pollen analysis on soil found under Gehring's minivan and near a shovel used to bury the children. It concluded that the soil most likely came from northeastern Ohio. The children's mother said she had searched within five miles of Hudson last summer.
Hudson resident Heidi Mocas took a bouquet on Saturday to the spot where the bodies where found.
"It's a grave site, and to have had two children there very close in age to my own children, I just thought it was absolutely necessary to put some flowers down," said Mocas, the mother of two teens. "If something like that were to happen to my children, I would hope somebody would do something like this for them."