NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities in Tennessee issued a statewide Amber Alert on Friday for two children missing since their home was destroyed by an intense fire.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sent out the alert late Friday evening after investigators spent a fifth day trying to determine if there were any remains of the children in the fire debris.
The children, identified as 9-year old Chloie Leverette and 7-year old Gage Daniel, were living with their grandparents at the house that burned Sunday night and early Monday.
"I don't know what to think. I don't know what to think," Christopher Daniel, Gage's father, told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview. "They don't think that they burned up in the fire, the way I took it they don't."
Daniel, his voice breaking, said he had no idea what could have happened to the children, who have not been seen since before the fire Sunday evening.
Two bodies tentatively identified as 72-year-old Leon "Bubba" McClaran and his wife, 70-year-old Molli McClaran, were recovered Monday and have been sent to the Nashville medical examiner's office for autopsy. She was the children's maternal grandmother, he their step-grandfather.
TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the alert has not been sent to other states.
"We don't know where they are," Helm said. "We don't have any indication that they're in another state."
Multiple fire experts had processed the debris of the incinerated farmhouse and no trace of the children was found, the TBI said in a news release announcing the alert.
On Wednesday, when officials still had not found evidence of the children's remains in the debris, TBI issued an endangered child alert.
Helm said the TBI does not have any direct evidence that the children are victims of foul play. She said there are no persons of interest in the case and that investigators are following all leads, but would not elaborate.
Forensic teams from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville were brought in to help in the search.
Forensic anthropologist Steven A. Symes, who formerly worked in the medical examiner's office for Shelby County, said it was a smart decision for authorities to bring in these teams because they have the expertise.
"It just takes some screening and some close looking and understanding that a piece of drywall and piece of skull bone burned look about identical," he said.
Symes said the recovery of remains from fires has advanced as the forensic anthropology field grows, but he acknowledged it is still a slow process. He said the length of time to recover remains depends on the scene and how detailed the search is.
"Unfortunately sometimes a case that you least expect to be suspicious or difficult turns into that type of case," he said.
Christopher Garrett, a spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's office, said he did not have any information on a cause of the fire.
Associated Press Writer Janet Cappiello contributed to this report.