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GOING THE EXTRA MILE
Ohio Woman Honored for Finding Missing Children

03/20/06

Photograph of Stephanie Dietrick with Boston Special Agent in Charge Ken Kaiser
Stephanie Dietrich with Boston Special Agent in Charge Ken Kaiser.

When it comes to tracking down wanted fugitives and missing persons, we’re grateful for every potential lead and scrap of information we get from the public. And sometimes, a concerned citizen will make such an extraordinary effort to help that we can’t help but take notice.

A heartwarming case in point? Stephanie Dietrich, who went to great lengths to find the bodies of two missing children in a tragic case that touched people across the nation.

In 2003, two siblings—Sarah Gehring, 14, and Philip Gehring, 11—disappeared with their father after a Fourth of July fireworks show in New Hampshire. The father, Manuel Gehring, was arrested a few days later across the country in California and confessed to killing and burying his children. He was unsure exactly where he had buried them, and he committed suicide before investigators could get anything but hazy details.

Investigators spent days searching for burial sites off Interstate 80 between Grove City, Pennsylvania, and Iowa City, Iowa, that might match Manuel’s description. No luck. So the FBI turned to the power of the web: we posted audio and written descriptions of the burial site on this website and asked for the public’s help.

Dietrich, a mother of two from Akron, Ohio, was one of many who answered the call. In a big way, it turns out. She went looking for the sites across Ohio with her dog Ricco, armed with the information from our website.

Her initiative paid off. On December 1, 2005, Dietrich and Ricco were searching near Hudson, Ohio. Ricco, who had been off the leash, lay down on the ground and waited. That meant Ricco wanted her to dig there. Dietrich soon found a makeshift cross.

“As soon as I picked up that cross, I was done digging, I knew what I had,” Dietrich said. She called authorities, who uncovered the remains of the children. They were identified and their mother quickly notified. Case solved...and much-needed closure brought to the mother and family.

On Wednesday, we honored Dietrich at our Boston office , which was the lead FBI office in the original case. Special Agent in Charge Ken Kaiser presented her with a check, a plaque, and a letter of gratitude from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.

“Your willingness to voluntarily devote your own time and resources to involve yourself in this very difficult search speaks volumes of your character and compassion,” Mueller said in the letter. “The FBI owes you a debt of gratitude for your diligence and hard work in this matter.”

And what about Ricco? We were pleased to present this deserving pooch with a special “FBI K-9 Unit” dog collar.

Dietrich said she was never interested in recognition when she set out on her search: she just wanted to help. “Even if I didn’t have kids, I would have done it. Isn’t that what [we’re] supposed to do for each other,” she asked.

Yes, indeed, and you can help, too, by visiting our Wanted by the FBI website.