Man wanted for questioning in disappearance of Utah girl

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Associated Press WriterSALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Police searching for 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart said Wednesday they want to talk to a man who may have been in the area two days before she vanished.

Bret Michael Edmunds, a 26-year-old transient, was identified through his license plate number, which a milkman had spotted and reported to police, authorities said.

"We don't think he's a suspect at this point," police Sgt. Fred Louis said. Edmunds was being sought on outstanding warrants on charges of fraud and assault on a police officer, Louis said.

Edmunds is probably living in a 1997 green Saturn with Utah license plate number 266XJH, Louis said.

Elizabeth was reported taken at gunpoint from her million-dollar home last Wednesday between 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The milkman, Charlie Miller, said Friday he saw the car around 7 a.m. Monday, according to police. It drove slowly up and down the Smarts' street, which ends in a cul-de-sac. Miller said the man followed him up another cul-de-sac in the neighborhood. That's when he took note of the car and the plate. Police said the three digits of Edmunds' license -- 266 -- partially matched the license plate given by the milkman.

Edmunds is not known by the family, police said.

Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister, who witnessed the abduction, described the kidnapper as a 5-foot 8-inch man. Edmunds is 6-foot 2-inches tall and 235 pounds.

On Tuesday, Police Chief Rick Dinse said the investigation was looking at those who had access to the neighborhood or the house, although not necessarily a family member. He said they have received some promising leads in the case.

Officials from the Utah Department of Corrections have given police a list of dozens of names of known sex offenders on probation or parole, but nearly all of them have been cleared, said Jack Ford, an agency spokesman.

In all, police have interviewed hundreds of people and received 6,000 leads, of which 600 were deemed worthy of following up. Half of the 600 leads have been cleared.

Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, submitted to a polygraph test on Sunday. The test, characterized by police as routine, is being evaluated by the FBI.

Police also re-interviewed 9-year-old Mary Katherine Smart, who had told investigators that a gunman entered the bedroom she shared with her older sister and forced her to go with him. She said he told her that her sister would be hurt if she told anyone. Police said it was at least two hours before she woke her parents and told them.

"Her story was consistent and we did learn some things about the suspect we didn't know before," Dinse said.

As to whether Elizabeth knew her abductor, Dinse said, "That is a possibility, and I'm not going to comment beyond that." Police had said earlier that the suspect had not addressed the girl by name and there was no indication he knew her.

A search through the city and mountain foothills by volunteers was tapering off. On the first day of the search, 1,200 people volunteered to find Elizabeth. By Tuesday morning that number had dropped to 785. Fifty-five all-terrain vehicle owners turned out on Monday to search parts of the desert. On Tuesday there were 30 ATVs in the search.

Tuesday afternoon Elizabeth's parents made a televised plea for more help.

"Please keep coming. We know that it makes all the different in the world in bringing Elizabeth back," Ed Smart told volunteers. "We just know that this is going to end in a happy ending, and we pray that the Lord will bless all of you for all of what you've done."

Visiting Salt Lake City on Tuesday, first lady Laura Bush commended the efforts of those searching for the girl.

"I think they are all examples of how America wants to help," she said. "I think I speak for President Bush, and for all Americans, when I say that we are all praying for the safe return of Elizabeth Smart."

Bush also called Lois Smart on Tuesday to extend her prayers to the family.

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