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Letter released in Kristi Cornwell case

Officials hope to identify author

POSTED: August 11, 2010 9:30 p.m.
/For The Times

An envelope addressed to the Blairsville police department, shows the handwriting of the person who sent the letter related to the case of Kristi Cornwell, who has been missing for one year.

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The full contents of a letter that could be a crucial clue in the search for Kristi Cornwell's disappearance were released Wednesday on the one-year anniversary of the Blairsville woman's disappearance.

The letter, which was printed from a computer and mailed to the Murphy, N.C., and Blairsville police departments in January in hand-lettered envelopes, is purported to be from "a concerned grandmother."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Cherokee County Sheriff's Office have previously confirmed the existence of the letter, but did not release it to the public until Wednesday.

The letter reads, in part, "I was horrified to see a newspaper photo of a man that looks like my twenty-seven year old grandson. He drives a white Nissan Xterra with black bars on the front."

The "photo" the letter writer references is likely a composite sketch that was released by the GBI, along with the description of an Xterra that was involved in what may have been a separate attempted abduction of a woman in nearby Ranger, N.C.

The letter writer said her grandson arrived from his home in Florida for a stay at her home in western North Carolina on Aug. 1 "to visit and help with some needed home repairs."

The letter writer said on Tuesday, Aug. 11, the day of Cornwell's disappearance, "he did not return until seven o'clock the next morning. He returned with scratches on his face and left side of his neck. When I asked what happened, he said he was in a fight and was ready to go back home."

The writer concludes by saying, "I want to give my grandson the benefit of doubt until proven otherwise.
However, I will not turn a blind eye to my suspicions. I hope you can understand why I have chosen to conceal my identity."

Investigators are still hoping to identify the letter writer. If it is legitimate, it might run counter to a theory that Young Harris real estate appraiser James Scott Carringer was involved in Cornwell's disappearance.
Carringer was 42 years old when he shot himself in April while being pursued on a rape charge.

Cornwell, a 39-year-old single mother of a teenage son, was taking a walk for exercise near her parents' Union County home on the night of Aug. 11, 2009. Her boyfriend, who was talking with her on her cell phone, heard sounds of a struggle. Her personal effects were later found along the side of the road.

Authorities released a composite sketch based on an incident in Ranger in which a man bumped his truck into a woman walking along the side of the road. The man got out and walked toward the woman but turned around and left when another car approached.

The woman gave a description of a Nissan Xterra with a brush guard. Authorities believe that incident and Cornwell's abduction could be connected.

Brian Whidby, a GBI agent investigating the Cornwell case, has made a written appeal to the author of the anonymous letter.

"I ask that you contact me and we can eliminate any doubt in your mind about your grandson," Whidby wrote. "We can learn together if your suspicions are mistaken about your grandson."

Anyone with information about the author of the letter or any aspect of the case is asked to contact the GBI at 1-800-597-8477 or write Whidby directly at 79 Cobb Vantress Drive, Cleveland, Ga. 30528 or



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