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A family grows anxious as a new search for a man missing since 2003 continues

Still no sign of Michael Sheppard's remains
Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 17:48:11-04

Searchers digging in a wooded area near the Erie and Huron County border Friday still haven't found any sign of Michael Sheppard's body.  

Sheppard has been missing since May, 2003. His parents believe he was shot and killed in a friend's home off Fox Lane after a marijuana sale went bad.

On Monday, one of the men charged with killing Sheppard cut a plea deal with prosecutors. Joshua Stamm agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and received a three-year prison sentence.  

Sheppard's parents say they reluctantly agreed to the deal, believing that if Stamm would lead investigators to their son's body it would be worth it.

"I think if we would have had Michael, it would have...," said Sheppard's stepfather George Gottwald. "We would have had peace of mind. I think that was the deal we were getting, but so far we haven't got Michael."

Following the plea, investigators spent parts of three days searching a wooded area behind the Fox Lane home. 

"We know it's a process of elimination," said Tim Miller, founder of Texas Equusearch. "We've got a lot of things eliminated and we've got a lot more to eliminate."

RELATED: Searchers dig for Huron County man who has been missing since 2003.

A spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, said he could not comment on the plea deal except to say it was made in exchange for information previously unknown to investigators. Two other men have pleaded not guilty to murder and aggravated robbery charges in the case. Both are scheduled to stand trial in December.

"The rollercoaster has been more like jumping off a cliff," said Sheppard's mother Rosalie Gottwald. "There doesn't seem to be a bottom. You go up and all of a sudden it's down."

But after more than 15 years, she says she's not ready to give up hope or stop fighting to find Sheppard's body.

"I don't want him lying in a hole, an unmarked hole for eternity," said Rosalie Gottwald. "I want to be able to give him a proper burial. I want a place to go where I can talk to him."