Boyfriend heard struggle before woman's abduction

ATLANTA - 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 was linked to her disappearance.


Authorities scoured the north Georgia woods near Blairsville Monday for a sixth day looking for Kristi Cornwell, who police say was abducted Aug. 11. Cornwell told her boyfriend that she believed a car was following her and he 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.

Investigators are looking at the 38-year-old woman's past employment, including her last job as a state probation officer in 2002, Bankhead said. That is standard in missing persons cases, he said.

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

A 3.5-mile swath was covered near the area Cornwell disappeared, and a dive team searched the water near a bridge nearby, Bankhead said. The window to find her may be closing, he said.

"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's 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. Police said the GBI is also looking at an abandoned car found in the woods several miles from the abduction.

Investigators have interviewed 150 registered sex offenders in the four-county north Georgia area. They will next contact registered sex offenders across the state line in North Carolina.

Cornwell's family, meanwhile, has set up a Web site at to gather information. Richard Cornwell said he 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 said.