Missing Mississippi woman calls home

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

The family of a Mississippi woman who had been missing for 11 days feared the worst after her car was found abandoned on Interstate 55, five miles north of Cape Gir-ardeau, with a flat tire and the keys in the ignition.

The worry may have been for nothing.

It turns out the 29-year-old Jeanna Martin may have spent the last two weeks on a road trip with a truck driver before ending up in Columbia, S.C., in need of a ride home.

Martin, who had been missing since July 9, called her family in Kokomo, Miss., Sunday night and told them she was in South Carolina, unhurt, but that she needed someone to come get her. Martin told them that she would explain everything when she got home late Monday.

"I don't know exactly what happened or why she didn't call," said her brother Randy Stogner. "It really was unlike her. I was just glad to hear she's OK."

The Stogners had alerted police that Martin was missing after a car she was driving through Missouri in was found with a flat tire on I-55. She had been driving it back from Hannibal, Mo., where a friend she was traveling with bought another car.

The male friend, Jesse Hammond, told authorities that he had noticed Martin wasn't behind him. When he circled back, he found only her car with a flat tire and the keys inside. But he didn't report the incident immediately, instead driving back to Mississippi, where he told Martin's family she was missing.

But apparently Martin told the family a different story on the phone.

"She was driving in front," Stogner said. "When she had a flat tire, she tried to stop him, but he kept going. That's when she caught a ride with a truck driver and had been riding with him ever since. We think there's more to it."

Stogner theorizes that Hammond did that because he was on parole and was not supposed to be outside Mississippi. Hammond has been in the Marion County, Miss., Jail, on unrelated charges and has been questioned in the matter, authorities there said.

"I got the feeling she wasn't telling me everything," Stogner said. "But I didn't press it too much."

Martin's stepmother, Linda Stogner, said details were still sketchy.

"There's 11 days there that she doesn't account for," Linda Stogner said. "But she told us she was fine. But it's strange. If she hitched a ride, why didn't she call? The next stop was in Memphis. Couldn't she have called from there?"

Doug Barnes, an investigator with the Marion County Sheriff's Department, said he hoped to interview Martin as soon as possible and determine what happened.

A relative of Martin said she was being questioned at the Marion County Sheriff's Department late Monday and was unavailable for comment.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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