Boyfriend Heard Struggle Before Woman's Abduction

By: Greg Bluestein AP Email
By: Greg Bluestein AP Email

ATLANTA (AP) - The boyfriend of a Georgia woman who vanished near her parents' home said he overheard a struggle as the two talked by cell phone, and police are investigating whether her former job as a probation officer played a role in the disappearance.

About 100 authorities scoured the north Georgia woods near Blairsville Monday for a sixth day looking for Kristi Cornwell, who police say was abducted Aug. 11. Police said Cornwell told her boyfriend that she believed a car was following her. The boyfriend said he called police when he heard her struggle.

"At this point, we don't know if it's a random abduction or a targeted abduction," said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities are looking into Cornwell's past employment, including her last job as a probation officer in 2002, Bankhead said. He said looking into such background is standard in missing persons cases.

Authorities spent much of the day Monday probing a 3.5-mile swath around where Cornwell disappeared, and a dive team searched the water near a bridge in the area, Bankhead said. But he said the window of opportunity to find her may be closing.

"Time is an enemy, as far as that's concerned," Bankhead said, adding the heat has also slowed the search as volunteers had to stop periodically to stay hydrated.

Cornwell, who graduated from nearby North Georgia College with a
degree in criminal justice, worked at the state prison in Blairsville, the Towns County Sheriff's Office and the state probation office.

Her family told reporters she's been divorced three times and is the mother of a 15-year-old son. Her brother, Richard Cornwell, also said she took firearms classes, taught self-defense and enjoyed riding her motorcycle.

Cornwell's cell phone was found about two miles north of the spot where she was last seen, and investigators have looped in officials from nearby Cherokee County, N.C., in case she was taken farther north.

Bankhead also said authorities have interviewed 150 registered sex offenders in the four-county north Georgia area and will next contact registered sex offenders across the state line in North Carolina.

Cornwell's family, meanwhile, has set up a Web site at www.kristicornwell.com to gather information about her whereabouts.
Her brother Richard said he still had hope his sister would safely
return.

"We really want her back, and we would appreciate it if they would have mercy on her and just understand that we need her back," he told reporters.


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