Staff and Wire Reports

GERONIMO, Oklahoma -- The U.S. Marshal's Service has added its Sex Offender Investigation Unit to the search for a missing 7-year-old girl and her stepfather.

Authorities have been searching for 7-year-old Aja Johnson and Lester Hobbs since Jan. 24 when Tonya Hobbs, 37, Lester Hobbs' estranged wife and the mother of the girl, was found beaten to death in a camper near Geronimo in southern Comanche County. Hobbs, 46, was charged Jan. 26 in Comanche County District Court with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Law enforcement officers conducted a house-by-house search Wednesday for the missing girl and planned to check every home in the area, said Marc Crawford of the Sex Offender Investigation Unit.

"We don't have any particular theories. It's just that we are going to start the investigation over again. Did we are law enforcement overlook something, and that's why we are working together as a team," Crawford said.

Crawford said that the Sex Offender Unit became involved in the investigation after investigators received information that Hobbs could be sexually abusing the child.

The Marshal's Service moved its newest command center trailer to Geronimo Sunday night. Crawford said the $1.3 million mobile command post, housed in Oklahoma City, serves the service for the western portion of the United States including Alaska and can be flown anywhere it is needed.

"It's one of the best pieces of equipment we have to track criminals and sex offenders," Crawford said.

Crawford said the command center is able to link local law enforcement with Internet to satellite television information hubs and information can be sent and received almost instantly.

From the air, agents in local media helicopters, including SkyNEWS 9 HD, are looking for the missing 7-year-old and the suspect, and investigators are searching every space possible.

"The car is kept out of sight, out of view, either in a barn, a garage, a storage shed, under a tarp somewhere, which leads up to believe that maybe he's not moving," said Richard Goss, OSBI.

The case was mentioned briefly on Saturday's episode of America's Most Wanted television show and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was culling about 300 leads Wednesday, Jessica Brown, spokesperson, said. She said the investigation has been a step behind since its beginning due to the estimated 24-hour head start Hobbs had before the Amber Alert was called.

"We don't have any definitive information that leads us to believe that Lester Hobbs is still within Geronimo area, but we don't have any definite information to make us believe that he's not in the Geronimo area," Gross said.

More on