CANTON, Ohio - A volunteer group gathered early Thursday to search rural areas around the home of a missing woman who was nine months pregnant when she disappeared.
Texas EquuSearch, an internationally active search team, brought in sonar equipment to check ponds and a remote-control airplane equipped with a camera to look for any sign of Jessie Davis.
About 150 volunteers joined them on the ground in northeast Ohio's Lake Township.
"They're going to help us find Jessie, hopefully, bring her back safe," said the missing woman's younger sister, Whitney Davis.
Jessie 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 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."
"We're holding onto that hope that maybe she's still alive out there," said EquuSearch director Tim Miller. "That would be the greatest thing in the world, but realistically, we know after a period of time that that normally doesn't happen."
Miller started EquuSearch his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, disappeared in Texas and was found dead 17 months later. Funded through donations, the group offers search-and-rescue training and uses specialized search equipment to help recover human remains around the world and search for missing children. It has worked on hundreds of missing persons cases, including the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, 18, in Aruba.
"We're probably looking at somewhat of a miracle in this case," Miller said. "We also know if that person is deceased out there it's very important we find them as quickly as we can find them so they can determine cause of death."
On Wednesday, for the second time in three days, investigators searched the home of the man who fathered Davis' 2-year-old son and unborn daughter, although authorities have repeatedly said Canton police officer Bobby Cutts Jr. is not a suspect.
Cutts, 30, told The (Canton) Repository he had nothing to do with Davis' disappearance, and that he has slept little and had no appetite since the 26-year-old woman vanished.
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 during a search that lasted more than three hours.
A legal order allowed investigators to obtain some of Davis' cell phone records, which are being reviewed, Stark County sheriff's Chief Deputy Rick Perez said at a news conference Wednesday.
Cutts, who also has two children with his wife, Kelly, said they are separated but have not filed for divorce and that his wife knew he had a relationship with Davis.
He said he last spoke with Davis at 8 p.m. on June 13, about 90 minutes before she last spoke with her mother.
Cutts' mother, Renee Horne, told the Repository that agents at her son's home were looking for Davis' cell phone and a quilt missing from the Davis's 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, Horne said.
Meanwhile, authorities said DNA tests would not be finished until next week on a newborn girl left on a porch about 45 miles away from Davis' home. Authorities are trying to determine if the infant, less than 24 hours old when it was found Monday evening in Wooster, is related to Davis. A bottle and can of formula left in the basket with the newborn were sent to be tested for fingerprints or any other evidence.
On its Web site, the FBI lists the case as a kidnapping. But FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland said the label is standard whenever foul play is a possibility, and the agency doesn't know if Davis was abducted or not.
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to Davis' whereabouts. EquuSearch added a $5,000 reward.
Thursday morning, scores volunteers gathered at a firehouse near a sign that read, "Pray for Jessie," to help EquuSearch's efforts.
"My heart goes out to them," said Lisa Dillon, 47, who took a vacation day from her state job to aid in the search. "I just want to help."