HOWARD, Ohio (AP) — Blood was found in the home of a missing woman and her two children, whose disappearance along with her friend led to a lockdown at a college near where her pickup truck was spotted, a sheriff said Friday.
Investigators were interpreting the blood as a sign someone was injured but still considered the case a missing-persons report, Knox County Sheriff David Barber said.
Authorities were searching for 32-year-old Tina Herrmann, her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Maynard, her 10-year-old son, Kody Maynard, and a 41-year-old friend, Stephanie Sprang. Sarah Maynard is a seventh-grader at East Knox Middle School, where her brother is in the fifth grade, school officials said. The children were at school Wednesday.
Herrmann and Sprang apparently had been looking at an apartment for Herrmann, said Greg Borders, who said he and Herrmann had recently ended a six-year relationship but still were living in the same house.
Herrmann’s co-worker at Dairy Queen reported her missing on Wednesday after she didn’t show up to work, Barber said. A sheriff’s deputy went to her home in Howard, about 60 miles northeast of Columbus, twice Wednesday night and found lights on and a pickup truck in the driveway.
“No one answered the door,” Barber said. “There was no sign of anything out of place.”
Authorities returned to the home Thursday after the concerned co-worker went to the house and found blood inside. Investigators confirmed the blood but said they didn’t see signs of a struggle, like overturned chairs.
It’s unclear what led to the disappearance of the four, authorities said.
“Right now, there’s no indication to say that they were abducted,” the sheriff said. “But they’re unaccounted.”
Borders said Friday he last heard from Herrmann on Wednesday morning. He said Herrmann texted him on his way to work at a distribution center about 80 miles away in West Jefferson about 4:40 a.m. Wednesday to let him know that she’d fed the dog. He said the dog, a miniature pinscher named Tanner, also was missing.
The couple were living together in the split-level house, which sits along a rural road, despite splitting up several weeks ago, and they were on the verge of losing the house after falling a few months behind on their mortgage payments, Borders said.
“We were fairly civil, as civil as you can be living in the same house when you’re split up,” he told reporters outside the home.
He said they argued but their fights were never physical.
Herrmann’s truck was found Thursday night on property owned by Kenyon College, about 7 miles from Howard. Officials there put the campus under an hours-long lockdown until Friday morning.
A statement posted on the school’s website said “enhanced” security would be in place through at least the weekend.
Officials didn’t believe there was any threat to students and the lockdown, instructing students to go to their residence halls and remain there, was done strictly as a precaution, school spokesman Shawn Presley said. Authorities did not say whether they found anyone, Presley said.
Borders said he finished his shift at 4 p.m. Wednesday and spent the night with a friend. He said he was playing golf on Thursday when his mother called and said Herrmann apparently was missing.
He said he didn’t think much of it until he returned to the house in Howard after 5:30 p.m. and found authorities there.
He gave officers permission to search the house and didn’t go inside himself. He said a deputy took a few steps into the home and said he saw a considerable mess inside.
“I think something bad happened, something happened inside the house,” Borders said. “It’s not like Tina or me to leave the house unsecured.”
It wasn’t clear if the house was unlocked when authorities arrived.
The children’s father, Larry Maynard, told WBNS-TV it was unlike Herrmann to go away without letting him know. He didn’t return messages seeking further comment.
The district where the children go to school had staff available if any students were upset about their missing classmates and wanted to talk, Superintendent Matt Caputo said Friday.
Associated Press writers Doug Whiteman and Jeannie Nuss in Columbus and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report. Researcher Monika Mathur contributed from New York.
(This version CORRECTS Herrmann and Sprang were looking for an apartment for Herrmann, not as a couple.)