Sheriff: Reality 3 Missing May Be Dead 'More Prevalent'

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Efforts to find a missing mother, her son and a family friend continued early Thursday, but the Knox County Sheriff said that the chances of finding them alive are growing slimmer.

"The reality that these folks may not be alive is becoming more and more prevalent," Barber said during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. 

Search teams continued to scour portions of Knox County for clues related to the whereabouts of Tina Herrmann, 32; her son, Kody, 11; and a friend, Stephanie Sprang, 41, 10TV News reported.

SLIDESHOWS:  Vehicles Connected With Case |  Hoffman In Court |  Case Timeline | Tuesday's Search |   Park Search   |   Images From Mount Vernon Neighborhood Four Missing | Search For Missing People | VIDEO EXTRAS: Sheriff David Barber's Nov. 17 News Conference |

Some searches were being conducted near Herrmann's Apple Valley home.  Authorities there collected some evidence early Thursday morning but did not elaborate on what was found, 10TV's Ashleigh Barry reported.

There has been no cell phone or bank activity from either of the women since last Wednesday, the last time they were seen alive, Barber said. 

Investigators used dogs to search six specific areas on Tuesday, including the Kokosing Gap trail that runs between nearby Howard, Ohio, and Mount Vernon, 10TV News reported.   Barber said the searches yielded some evidence, including trash bags and tarp, but he failed to elaborate on the items further.

Evidence continues to be collected and Barber said the state crime lab has made testing it a priority.

Barber said the children rode the bus home from school last Wednesday and that may have been the last time they were seen.

He released more information on what Herrmann and Kody Maynard was last seen wearing, but said investigators were still trying to determine what Sprang was wearing the last time she was seen.

Herrmann was wearing a white ball cap, a tan, hooded sweatshirt, dark sweat pants and tennis shoes.  Kody Maynard was wearing black shoes, jeans, a gray T-shirt and a blue zip-up sweatshirt. 

Matthew Hoffman is accused of kidnapping Herrmann's daughter, Sarah Maynard, 13, and holding her in his basement for several days.  She was rescued on Sunday morning after authorities swarmed Hoffman's home in Mount Vernon. 

Hoffman, 30, is still not cooperating with investigators, Barber said. He would not elaborate on how Hoffman knew the four people.

Sarah Maynard continues to help investigators, Barber said, adding that her information "is pretty critical to the investigation."

Hoffman appeared in court on Tuesday via video and was ordered held on a $1 million bond.  

He wore what is referred to as a suicide gown after indicating to jail staff that he may try to harm himself, authorities said.

On Tuesday authorities released images of three vehicles connected to the case, and Barber asked for people to try and recall if they saw them last Wednesday or Thursday. 

The vehicles were a Ford F-150 pickup that Herrmann was driving, a 2008 Toyota Yaris that Hoffman was driving and a silver Jeep belonging to Sprang. All three vehicles are in the sheriff's custody.

Barber said investigators have received tips on the vehicles and that has allowed them to piece together a timeline.

Wednesday was "wear purple" day at East Knox Schools, as students showed support for their classmates.

Kody and Sarah Maynard attend East Knox and purple is the school's color. Classmates wore purple clothes and ribbons.

"They're handling it that way, some of the students are noticeably upset and rightfully so," said East Knox Superintendent Matthew Caputo. "This is a classmate that they're missing."

Kody A. Maynard is 4 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing 70 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes.

Sprang is 5 feet, 3 inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes.

Herrmann is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 122 pounds, with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes.

Knox County Emergency Management Director Brian Hess said the agency is organizing a search on Thursday at 10 a.m.

Volunteers are asked to meet at the movie theater across the street. Searchers will be matched up with a team leader.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Knox County Sheriff's Office at 740-397-3333 or the tip line at 888-363-8477.

Stay with 10TV News and refresh for continuing coverage.

Previous Stories:

November 17, 2010: Knox Co. Search Enters Seventh Day
November 16, 2010: Suspected Kidnapper Bought Trash Bags, T-Shirt, Tarps
November 16, 2010:  Families Still Hopeful 3 Will Be Found Alive
November 15, 2010: Mother Of Suspected Kidnapper Says He Is 'Loner'
November 15, 2010: Sheriff: 3 Missing People Could Be Dead
November 15, 2010:  Police Block Off Park As Mount Vernon Search Continues
November 15, 2010:  Suspected Kidnapper's Past Includes Arson Conviction
November 14, 2010:   Missing Girl Found Safe; Man In Custody
November 13, 2010:  Search For 4 Grows More Intense
November 13, 2010:  Support Growing To Find Missing Family, Friend
November 12, 2010:  Search Continues For Missing Women, Children
November 12, 2010:  4 Missing From Knox Co.; Discovery Of Pickup Prompts Kenyon College Lockdown