Kristi Cornwell’s remains discovered by brother; investigtors identify ‘strong suspect’ in slaying

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kristi Cornwell’s brother discovered her remains Saturday while searching for the sibling who disappeared nearly 16 months ago.

“I’m thankful she can now have the proper burial that she deserves,” Richard Cornwell said Monday at a news conference in which GBI officials confirmed that the partially buried, burned remains were those of the former probation officer, last seen Aug. 11, 2009 walking near her parents’ Blairsville home.

Investigators also said they think they know who killed Cornwell: James Scott Carringer, who first emerged as a suspect last spring after fatally shooting himself following a three-hour standoff with Atlanta police.

GBI director Vernon Keenan said Carringer was now a “strong suspect” after cell phone records revealed that he was “within a two-mile radius” the night Cornwell disappeared.

Carringer was wanted in the April 6 kidnapping and rape of a 19-year-old relative in Ellijay. While assisting in that investigation, GBI agents “uncovered information that led them to pursue the possibility of Carringer’s involvement … in Kristi’s disappearance,” GBI spokesman John Bankhead said.

Carringer also emerged as a person of interest in the botched abduction of a Ranger, N.C., woman by someone seen driving away in a silver Nissan Xterra. Investigators believe that incident and Cornwell’s slaying could be related, Bankhead said.

Perhaps the most damning evidence implicating Carringer, arrested in 2000 in North Carolina for assault to inflict serious injury, was his removal of a brush guard that had been on front of his Xterra soon after Cornwell went missing.

Agents impounded two Xterras from Carringer’s Young Harris home, not far from where Cornwell disappeared. the former appraiser and home builder also was suspected in the attempted abduction of a 10-year-old girl from a church parking lot in Montgomery, Ala., on April 4.

Cornwell was talking to her boyfriend, Douglas Davis, of Carrollton, on the phone the night she disappeared. She said that a car was following her, and Davis said he then heard her scuffling with her abductor. Cornwell, 38, pleaded, “Don’t take me,” Davis told investigators.

The former prison guard’s shoes and eyeglasses were found nearby and her cell phone was located a few miles away. Evidence was otherwise scarce.

Cornwell’s family maintained a relentless search, renting airplanes to scout for her and sending some 80,000 fliers with information about the case to communities in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

That search was down to a single family member by Saturday. Kristi Cornwell’s remains were found roughly nine miles from where police believe she was abducted.

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Kristi Cornwell’s remains discovered by brother; investigtors identify ‘strong suspect’ in slaying

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