HOWARD — Early Sunday morning friends, family and community members gathered at the Apple Valley Property Owners Association office to start a new day of searching for the four missing persons — Tina Herrmann, 32; her two children, Sarah Maynard, 13, and Kody Maynard, 11; and family friend, Stephanie Sprang, 41, all of Howard.
Get audio from the press conferences, see images of the investigation and search, a map of key events and related stories.
Words of hope and prayers were given by Steve Sprang, father of Stephanie Sprang, as volunteers convened. He also expressed his appreciative to all those able to come out and asked people to be safe as they searched.
Jennifer and Brian Kessler organized the volunteers into several groups to head out in different directions.
“We only ask that if you find something to back away, mark where you saw it, and immediately call the sheriff. We don’t want to ruin anything, so please be careful,” said Brian Kessler, speaking to a crowd of over 40 people. “We were out yesterday and stopped because we didn’t know any other place to look, so if there’s any locations you think we should check out, please let us know.”
One volunteer also suggested the Kenyon College Observatory, “I feel very strong about [searching] there. It has many roads and has a wide open area.”
Other volunteers thought areas of seclusion should be places to search, particularly near waterways, streams and rivers.
A team of nine, led by Brian Kessler, headed down Magers Road to an area along Little Jelloway Creek. With no rain the past week, the creek bed was low and fairly easy to traverse.
“I didn’t find anything yet, but we’ll keep looking,” said Brian Kessler.
The sound of crunching leaves and the hush of the steady creek were the only sounds heard as volunteers scoured the woods along the stream.
The team stopped for a small break to study a map of Knox County and Apple Valley. They pointed to possible locations to where evidence or clues might be found to aid in the missing persons case. Areas along King Beach Drive, Magers Road and Colopy Road were marked as potential spots and then searched.
Robin Scoles, and her team, searched around Bennett Park and along Skyline Drive. “If it was me or my daughter missing, I would want people to look for us.”
As the morning continued, cell phones began to ring as word of Sarah Maynard being discovered in Mount Vernon spread. Many were encouraged by the news, as well as fearful.
“I fear for the safety of my daughter,” said Scoles. “I live in that neighborhood where they found her.”
The searched continued well into the afternoon as many more joined in the search. Local farmers and property owners in the area allowed the parties to search their lands and fields.
“I’m so thankful for all the prayers and community support,” said Felicia White, friend of Stephanie Sprang. “When I heard about what happened I knew I couldn’t let it go, I had to help. I just want everyone to know that she’s a great person, and a great mom. She would never leave her kids for any reason. I’m not going to give up, never going to give up, until they are all found. She’s my best-friend, we’re like sisters. It’s hard to believe this has happened.”
Their search took them down a long gravel road on the east side of Apple Valley. After a few minutes of searching they came across two shirts: One pink and one red and looked as if ripped. The clothing appeared suspicious as it hung loosely over fallen tree limbs. White, who made the call to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, was hesitant, but thought that it could be something Stephanie would wear.
A deputy arrived on the scene, collected the articles of clothing and was supportive of the group’s efforts.
The group was just as glad to be able to help their law enforcement.
“These are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. For many of us, they live right down the street,” said a volunteer who asked to remain anonymous. “If it could happen to them it could happen to us. I would want to know that someone was out looking for me.”
As dreaded rumors persisted of the possible deaths of the remaining three missing persons, a few wondered if they should continue to search.
“I’m impressed by how many are out. Some people asked if maybe we should go home but many wanted to stay and continue,” said Brian.
By the afternoon the team of nine turned into more than 20 volunteers.
“This is a larger group than yesterday,” said Brian. “It’s great to see so many willing to do something to help. There are many people who care but are just sitting at home not knowing what they can do.”
“I thought it was great everyone coming together and staying in contact throughout the whole search,” said Elizabeth Foor, volunteer and concerned parent. “I have two daughters and it’s so sad to hear that this has happened. I knew I had to come out to help.”