Search in northeast Ohio for kids shot by father turns up nothing

By DAVID TIRRELL-WYSOCKI, Associated Press Writer
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Tracked to California nearly a week after he and his children disappeared from Concord, Manuel Gehring at first said he didn't know what had happened to the kids.
But soon, anxious investigators' worst fears were confirmed when he admitted shooting them, driving for hours with their bodies in his van and burying them in the Midwest, according to court documents released Wednesday.
"He told police that he said a prayer, fashioned a cross made of duct tape across the chest of both children and buried them in shallow graves," an affidavit said.
The children's bodies haven't been found.
Gehring admitted he shot his daughter, Sarah, 14, and son, Philip, 11, in southern New Hampshire, and buried them somewhere off Interstate 80 -- he thought it was Ohio.
The 44-year-old unemployed accountant and the children were last seen in Concord, arguing after a Fourth of July fireworks show. He was arrested July 10 in California, alone, on charges of interfering with custody.
The FBI and local authorities searched unsuccessfully for the bodies Wednesday in a small northeast Ohio town. The spot in Shalersville in Portage County was one of many matching a description of the possible grave site distributed by investigators.
"We've been following up on all the tips with the locals," said John Cavanagh, assistant special agent in charge at the Cleveland FBI office. "The bottom line is the search results were negative."
There have been no other leads in the area, said Portage County Sheriff Duane Kaley, whose office contacted the FBI after someone called with a tip about the children.
Police said Gehring, who was in a custody battle with his ex-wife, was despondent and emotional in his first police interview in California and said his life was over.
In Concord, officers already had found a note on Gehring's living room floor that said: "I hate my life."
In subsequent interviews in California, he said he returned home with the children after the fireworks, picked up a 9 mm handgun, drove about a half hour to 45 minutes, then pulled over and shot them.
FBI agents who searched Gehring's van in California reported finding bullet holes covered with duct tape, blood stains, apparent brain matter and a pool of blood on the van floor. They also reported finding two loaded handguns, two shovels and an ax.
According to the documents, Gehring said that after killing the children (pictured, above), he drove to western Pennsylvania, where he bought an ax, a shovel, a utility knife and scissors at a Wal-Mart.
He then drove another three to four hours to somewhere on Interstate 80 in Ohio, where he left the highway, drove two to three miles and dug graves for his children in a secluded spot, the document said.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the documents, saying the evidence speaks for itself. Gehring's lawyers did not immediately return phone messages Wednesday afternoon.
Gehring was being held without bail on two charges of 1st degree murder.
Although Gehring reportedly told police he buried the children in Ohio, authorities have said they don't know where graves are, and have been searching from western Pennsylvania, through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska. The search area is along a 700-mile strip 10 miles north or south of Interstate 80.
Before being returned to New Hampshire, police flew Gehring to the Midwest, where he spent a week, apparently trying to remember where he buried the children.
Police tracked Gehring from Concord to Gilroy, Calif., through credit card transactions. The transactions, listed in the court documents, show that on the day before he was arrested, he used a credit card to withdraw $5,000 from a New Hampshire account.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)