Written with Elizabeth Gibson
HOWARD, Ohio – When Tina R. Herrmann didn’t show up for work on Wednesday, her co-workers at Dairy Queen started to worry.
The Knox County sheriff’s office checked in at her house twice that night, but no one answered the door.
By Thursday, the manager at the Dairy Queen in Mount Vernon was concerned enough to investigate and let herself into the house, Sheriff David Barber said.
The woman didn’t find Herrmann or her children.
What she found was blood.
The sheriff said Herrmann, 32, and her friend Stephanie Sprang, 41, along with Herrmann’s children, Sarah Maynard, 13, and Kody Maynard, 10, had been at the home and were last seen Wednesday. The sheriff’s office is treating it as a missing-persons case. Barber said there weren’t signs of a struggle, but there were signs of an injury. Investigators suspect foul play.
“There is blood that is unusual and that’s what we’re following,” Barber said.
It wasn’t comforting news for family members at the scene yesterday.
“I have a thousand things running through my head and I want some answers,” said Greg Borders, who recently broke up with Herrmann but still lived in their home off and on.
Knox County deputies, along with agents for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, descended on the home at 481 King Beach Dr. on Thursday night.
Investigators remained at the scene all day yesterday. Several, dressed in scrubs, gloves and protective booties, came and went from the house, taking pictures and removing small items.
Borders, 30, said the last time he heard from Herrmann was through a text message at 11:30 Wednesday morning, saying she had fed their miniature pinscher.
Then his mother called about noon Thursday while he was golfing to say that Herrmann and her two children were missing.
“I think something bad happened,” Borders said.
He said that he and Herrmann recently broke up after six years together. He said their house was going to be foreclosed upon and he’d heard that Herrmann was taking Sprang with her to look at apartments.
“We were both going to go our separate ways,” he said. “We were fairly civil, as civil as you can be living in the same house when you’re broken up.”
Borders and Herrmann purchased the Apple Valley-area house in 2007 after moving to Knox County from Hilliard.
Borders said he hadn’t seen Herrmann since he left for work at the Target distribution center in West Jefferson at 3:40 a.m. Wednesday. He said he spent that night at his mother’s house.
East Knox Schools Superintendent Matt Caputo said both children attend East Knox Middle School; Sarah is a seventh-grader and Kody a fifth-grader.
Herrmann’s children didn’t show up for school on Thursday, Caputo said, but they were there on Wednesday.
The couple’s dog, Tanner, also is missing.
Larry Maynard, the father of the two children, lives in southern Franklin County and said he’s struggling with emotions right now – sadness, anger, worry.
“It’s like somebody ripped my heart out while it was still beating,” Maynard said.
“You have this kind of thing on the TV all the time, but it’s never your family. I’m no dummy. I know the longer these things go on, the worse the chances.”
Sarah is a bubbly child and “a star athlete on the softball team,” her father said. Kody is quieter and a good student who’s always on the honor roll.
Maynard said he last saw his children about three weeks ago when he and his wife took them to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Maynard and Herrmann never married.
He said Sprang has three children. Records show they’re 20, 17 and 9 years old.
A State Highway Patrol helicopter equipped with a heat-imaging system that can detect bodies swept the area near the home, said Lt. Gary Lewis, patrol spokesman.
The King Beach Drive house is in Howard Township, about 7 miles from Kenyon College.
The college was placed in lockdown from about 10:15 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. yesterday. Emergency notices were sent to students by cell phone and e-mail, after the school learned from authorities that “a dangerous individual” might be on campus.
The sheriff said Herrmann’s Ford pickup truck was found abandoned on the campus. It had been in the driveway both times deputies had checked on the home Wednesday night, but disappeared at some point Thursday.
Sprang’s car was found in Herrmann’s garage.