State investigators are scouring the vehicle of a man who killed himself after a standoff with Atlanta police in hopes of finding evidence that may link him to the disappearance of a woman who went missing in August while walking in north Georgia.
James Scott Carringer shot and killed himself after Atlanta authorities tried to arrest him on charges that he raped a teenager in Gilmer County. Police in Montgomery, Ala., said Carringer also likely tried to abduct a 10-year old girl during a church egg hunt there a few days earlier.
Now the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says Carringer could be linked to a third case that has long frustrated investigators — the disappearance of Kristi Cornwell, a 38-year-old who police say was abducted while talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone during a walk near her parents’ home in Blairsville, Ga.
GBI agents, who were investigating the rape allegation against Carringer, soon realized the man could have had several ties to Cornwell’s disappearance.
The 42-year-old lived near a few miles from where Cornwell was last seen, and he owned a silver Nissan Xterra, the same type of car spotted in the area the night Cornwell went missing.
State investigators are conducting tests on the vehicle in hopes of discovering more evidence.
“We seized it and are processing it, doing searches,” said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. “We are pursuing it as a lead.”
Cornwell’s disappearance has attracted national attention and confounded local authorities. Investigators said she was walking along a remote road on Aug. 11 when she told her boyfriend she believed a car was following her. He called police when he heard a struggle.
Investigators scoured the north Georgia woods near Blairsville for days in search of Cornwell, a former probation officer who had a 15-year-old son. They found her cell phone abut two miles north of the spot where she was last seen but have yet to recover her body.
The GBI was flooded with dozens of tips in December after the agency released a sketch of a possible suspect and the vehicle that may have been involved. North Carolina authorities in January received an anonymous letter from a woman who said the sketch of the suspect looked like her grandson.
Jo Ann Cornwell, Kristi Cornwell’s mother, posted a video on YouTube urging the writer of the letter to go to authorities, saying the “suspicions are not just a coincidence.” So far, though, authorities said the tips have yet to pan out.
“We’re still pursuing this case and doing what we can to possibly make a connection. It’s a lead and we’ve had a number of these throughout the investigation that hasn’t panned out,” said Bankhead. “But we’re going to pursue it until we find something.”
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