Using specially trained dogs, a task force has launched a renewed search for two Oregon City teenagers who disappeared months ago on their way to school.
Investigators searched Canemah Park in Oregon City and Bagby Hot Springs on Tuesday, about 50 miles southeast of the Portland suburb. The FBI's latest leads point to the two areas, as well as Old Canemah Park in Oregon City, and agents have begun what a bureau spokewoman said will be extensive searches of the three areas.
Search teams are using a tool 10,000 times more sensitive than the human nose — a canine nose. The dogs are trained to sniff out backpacks, clothing, shoes or human remains, FBI spokeswoman Beth Ann Steele said.
"It is huge and it is very overwhelming, but the dogs are hopefully able to smell more than we can see," FBI special agent Sonja Nordstrom said as she and her dog Niko rested from the search. "We are looking for any evidence that we can find regarding the two missing girls."
Although agents won't say specifically what prompted their search, they did say their investigation has taken them to sexual predator lists, school areas and play areas where someone might have crossed paths with Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis, the two girls who disappeared from the same apartment complex in Oregon City, two months apart.
Investigators have received new leads that "simply need to be checked out," Steele said.
As investigators uncovered enough evidence to lead them to carry out the new searches, they have also generated a short but ever-changing list of "persons of interest," they said.
"We're now working on those individuals who have been surfaced either through that investigation or through the tips in the community … and these searches are part of that," FBI Special Agent in charge Charles Mathews said.
Teams will also search some storage lockers near Old Canemah Park if time permits, he said.
Steele said teams have searched Bagby Hot Springs before, but the bureau did not notify the public. The springs are about 30 miles from Estacada, which is southeast of Portland.
"Previously, some aspects of the investigation they needed to keep quiet. Now they don't feel that is the case," Steele said.
She said the new search will last until Thursday.
Besides the fact that they disappeared two months apart from the same apartment complex, Pond and Gaddis shared other similarities: both were pretty, they attended the same school and were members of the same dance team, the Fallen Angels.
Pond was last seen walking to a school bus stop on Jan. 9, Gaddis having breakfast in her apartment kitchen on March 8 before leaving for the bus stop.
Investigators believe both were abducted, possibly by the same person, but have announced no suspects in the case.
"We do operate under the premises that the girls are alive until evidence indicates otherwise," Steele said.
Sharonda Garrett, the girls' dance teacher and a family friend, said investigators haven't told the families much about what prompted Tuesday's search.
Michelle Duffey, Miranda's mother, was anxious about the new efforts.
"I'm not sure why they chose certain spots, but we hope they find something but not anything bad," she said.
Ashley's mother, Lori Pond, has avoided reporters, but her grandfather said the search has renewed his hopes.
"You hear something like this, probably the main thing that comes to your mind is, well this time maybe we're going to really get what we want," he said. "We're going to find them, one way or another."
The FBI has a tip line for anyone who thinks they might have information about the missing girls: 1-800-822-0962.
ABC affiliate KATU contributed to this report.