TOWANDA — A third search along the Whitewater River failed to find clues that might solve the Adam Herrman mystery.
But Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy didn't sound discouraged after Saturday's search for the boy who disappeared a decade ago at age 11. Murphy said the search is only one part of a methodical investigation.
"It's a very hot case," he said. "We have a lot of focus on it."
The search involved about 20 people, including detectives, forensic anthropologists and search-dog handlers.
Although detectives have interviewed a number of people, they have not been able to talk to Adam's adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman, Murphy said. He wouldn't discuss why.
Adam disappeared in 1999 from a Towanda mobile home park where the Herrmans lived. In an Eagle interview, Valerie Herrman said Adam ran away after she spanked him with a belt. The Herrmans said they didn't report him missing because they feared the spanking would cause them to lose custody of him and two younger siblings.
Authorities discovered his disappearance late last year when his older adoptive sister brought them her concerns about him.
Butler County Attorney Jan Satterfield has said the Herrmans are suspects in an investigation that could lead to murder charges. The Herrmans and their attorneys say they are innocent.
Murphy said the next planned search will be Feb. 21, focusing on woods south of the mobile home park.
He said he discusses the investigation with Satterfield three to four times a week.
The unusual case continues to draw wide attention, he said. Detectives are receiving e-mails from across the nation. People have offered suggestions of where to search: in caves, for example.
And psychics are calling, asking questions and offering their visions.
Even if the searches fail to find anything, they show that investigators are making reasonable efforts, Murphy said.
Search teams are not looking only for bones or a depression in the ground above a possible grave, he said. They are looking for things that the 11-year-old boy might have worn in 1999 and what he might have carried in his pockets. They are watching for anything in the woods that looks out of place.
Richard Ketterman, who lives near a bend in the Whitewater south of Towanda, said he gave investigators permission to search on his property. Ketterman has lived near the river for 44 years. It is the first time authorities sought his help to find human remains.
"I hope they come up with something," Ketterman said.
By late afternoon, search teams fanned out along creeks south of the mobile home park. The creeks feed into the Whitewater.