John Knox headed south Thursday afternoon in the family Pontiac Aztek, aiming for Interstate 75.
It was the beginning of a 516-mile drive to Chattanooga.
He hopes the journey ends with finding the body of 85-year-old Gladis Russell and bringing her home to rest.
“I couldn’t sleep well thinking about it. I woke up this morning and said, ‘Let’s go to Tennessee,’” Knox said. “My wife thought I was joking.”
The couple live a few miles outside Bellefontaine, Ohio, where Russell and her husband, Richard, lived.
Richard Russell’s body was found Saturday, lying facedown and partially clothed near Lightfoot Mill Road. He was killed by a stab wound to the chest, an autopsy said.
Authorities believe Gladis Russell’s body could be nearby, but after a couple of days of fruitless searching in the Chattanooga area, they’ve stopped looking.
So Knox, 24, began the trip Thursday with his wife, Alicia, and his brother, Josh, to help find Gladis Russell. The couple left their 4-year-old, 3-year-old and 6-month-old with relatives while they spend a few days in Tennessee, searching.
Knox said he and his brother are students and he doesn’t know the Russells.
“Just live in the same town,” he said. Bellefontaine is about 50 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio, and has a few more than 13,000 inhabitants.
“Just one member of the community trying to help another. ... We live in such a small town. It just hit us hard. Everyone in town is family, whether you know each other or not,” Knox said.
Knox is working on a degree in criminal justice. He said the slayings have shaken the small community, which hasn’t had a murder case in years.
Samuel Littleton II confessed to killing the Russells after he was caught in West Virginia, authorities said. He is in custody after being charged with the slaying of his girlfriend’s daughter, 26-year-old Tiffany Brown, and has not been charged in the couple’s deaths.
Investigators believe he killed the Russells in their home, put their bodies in the trunk of their car and drove it south on Interstate 75.
He initially directed investigators to South Georgia, but after Richard Russell’s body was discovered, authorities began searching in Chattanooga, including property near Interstate 75.
Police said they will resume searching for Gladis Russell when they receive more information to guide them. Police asked the public to call if they see vultures circling or what appears to be a body.
A call came in Thursday reporting vultures flying near Highway 58 and Shirley Pond Road. Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office investigators checked the area and found nothing.
But ending the search upset the Knoxes.
“We just think, how could you give up so fast? Just two days,” he said. “It just seemed like more needed to be done. If it was my family, I would want somebody to do it.”
When Knox arrives in town, he hopes to work with police to learn the areas that already have been searched.
Assistant Chief Tim Carroll said police will meet with Knox.
“If they can come up with something we haven’t, they are welcome to it,” Carroll said. “We’ve searched everywhere we know to search based on limited information.”
The family plans to stay for at least a few days.
“Three people isn’t a whole lot,” said Knox, who was approaching the Ohio state line just before 6 p.m. Thursday. “It seems like it’s better than no one looking.”