July 6, 2013

Decade after ex nabbed kids, N.H. mother mourns

Manuel Gehring abducted his two children after an argument at a Fourth of July fireworks display in Concord.

By LYNNE TUOHY The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — It's been a decade since a man abducted his two children after an argument at a Fourth of July fireworks display in Concord.

click image to enlarge

Officials in Concord, N.H., announce that Philip and Sarah Gehring are missing at a 2003 news conference. Volunteers across the country searched more than two years before the children's bodies were found.

2003 Associated Press file photo

Their father, Manuel Gehring, was apprehended in California a week later and admitted he fatally shot 14-year-old Sarah and 11-year-old Philip in his van before beginning the trek west, their bodies strapped in place by seatbelts.

Gehring killed himself in jail in February 2004 while awaiting trial. The children's bodies were discovered in December 2005 off Interstate 80 in northeastern Ohio.

Gehring was in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, who had remarried and was pregnant with twins when her children disappeared. Teresa "Teri" Knight recently told The Associated Press that the time between their disappearance and the discovery of their bodies was "unbelievably surreal."

"I remember a lot of difficult times when the publicity would stop, and I would think that no one's looking for them anymore," she said.

Her twin daughters, now 9-1/2 years old, distract her from the grief of losing Sarah and Philip. Her own stubbornness also keeps her from going back "into that world" where there was no normalcy, just intense emotion, she said.

She remarried three weeks before Sarah and Philip disappeared and gave birth to Molly and Mallory less than five months later.

The twins refer to Sarah and Philip as their "guardian angels" and send balloons skyward on their birthdays.

"They wonder and wish what would have been," Knight says of her daughters, who are both cheerleaders like Sarah was.

She still feels anger that Gehring "got out of it easy" by killing himself. But she also said she felt a sense of relief that there was no chance of something going wrong at trial that might let him off the hook.

"That would have been worse," she said.

She teaches nursing at Concord Community College and is working on her second master's degree.

She and her husband, Jim, and the girls typically leave town this time of year, and this year is no different. They're going camping on the beach in Maine. She says they will never forget that Fourth of July 10 years ago, when she and Jim drove back from Maine into the jarring reality of missing children and a sense of dread at the prospect of ever seeing them again.

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