1,800 search for missing Ohio woman
By Matt Reed
The Associated Press
UNIONTOWN, Ohio — Combing back yards, vacant fields and a Christmas tree farm, about 1,800 volunteers on Thursday searched for a woman who was nine months pregnant when she disappeared last week.
Some were on horseback, driving golf carts or riding all-terrain vehicles. Those on foot were told to walk three feet apart to ensure they didn't overlook a tire mark, fresh dirt or some other clue to the disappearance of Jessie Davis.
"You just can't go home and assume somebody will take care of it," said Barb Schollaerd, 51, of North Canton. "We look after our own."
Davis, whose baby is due July 3, was last heard from in a phone call with her mother on June 13. Two days later, her mother checked on her home in nearby Lake Township and found it in shambles, with the furniture overturned, a comforter missing and her 2-year-old grandson wandering around alone.
The little boy told investigators: "Mommy was crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in rug."
Authorities have repeatedly talked with and searched the home of the man who fathered Davis' son, although investigators have said Canton police officer Bobby Cutts Jr. is not a suspect. Cutts, 30, says he had nothing to do with Davis' disappearance. The woman's family says he is also the father of Davis' unborn baby.
Volunteers searched the area around Davis' northeast Ohio home for about 4 1/2 hours before the effort was suspended because of heavy rain.
"I can't believe how many people are out there. It's amazing," said the missing woman's younger sister, Whitney Davis, who wore a T-shirt with her sister's picture and the word "Missing" in red letters. "I think we're going to find her."
Authorities gave no indication that Thursday's search had turned up any evidence. A patch of freshly dug dirt found around noon about a mile from Davis' home caused search dogs to react, but it turned out to be a marijuana plot, said Stark County sheriff's Capt. Gary Shankle.
"It's very frustrating, but we just can't leave any stone unturned," Shankle said.
The turnout made the search the largest of hundreds conducted by the internationally active group Texas EquuSearch. "We've never had that many show up at one time," said EquuSearch director Tim Miller.
The groupbrought in sonar equipment to check ponds and a remote-control airplane equipped with a camera to look for any sign of Davis, 26.
One volunteer showed up in high heels but gave up 20 minutes later after walking through a wooded area. Another maneuvered on crutches. "I'm here for the whole thing," said Tammy Robinson, 47.
Some volunteers brought their dogs or children. People signing up to help at a fire station formed a line about two football fields long.
Police officer Jamie Mizer led one of 14 groups during the search. She is three months pregnant.
"That's kind of what's motivating me to be out here," she said.
Team leaders were told to look for tire tracks and any debris or other things that appeared out of the ordinary. Miller also instructed that if a body was found, the leaders should stay with it and move other searchers away.
"I'm hopeful we can find her alive," he said. "If not, the second best thing we can do is be back here next week for a funeral."
Cadaver dogs were sent to areas where they picked up on some odors, but nothing had been found by midafternoon, Miller said. "A lot of times they'll pick up on something that'snot there," he said.
Rewards totaling $15,000 are being offered for information leading to Davis' whereabouts.
In a search of her boyfriend's home Wednesday, sheriff's investigators and FBI agents carried out more than a dozen white cardboard boxes, a few brown bags and three large black plastic bags.
Cutts' mother, Renee Horne, told The (Canton) Repository that agents were looking for Davis' cell phone and a quilt missing from her home.
Horne said FBI agents questioned her son twice Wednesday, and read him his Miranda rights during the second interview. Investigators also took Cutts' two cell phones, she said.
Meanwhile, the DNA of a newborn baby found about 45 miles from Davis' home was being tested to see if the infant is related to the missing woman, a possibility authorities have described as unlikely. The testing was not expected to be finished until next week.