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Man Sought in Utah Found in W.Va.

June 22, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The drifter wanted for questioning in the kidnapping of 14-year-old Elizabeth A. Smart was caught Friday at a West Virginia hospital after checking himself in under a fake name with drug-related liver failure.

The capture of Bret Michael Edmunds, 26, shed no immediate light on Elizabeth's abduction June 5. Edmunds was being held on a federal warrant charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for violating probation in Utah on charges unrelated to the Smart case. He has been considered a fugitive since October.

But authorities investigating the kidnapping said they hoped to talk with Edmunds and search his car.

"We are anxious to look at him in all aspects of this case to find out if he's a suspect," Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said.

However, Edmunds was in serious condition in the intensive care unit at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., more than 2,000 miles from Salt Lake City. Authorities said he has been in and out of consciousness.

"There is a possibility that he could be critical to the point where he might not survive," the police chief said. Relatives of the Smart family said they hoped Edmunds might provide a break in the case.

"You've heard the term 'emotional roller-coaster,' " said Dave Smart, Elizabeth's uncle. "We're not going to hang our hats on anything until we have Elizabeth in our hands."

The teenager was taken at gunpoint from her bedroom. Her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, is the only witness to the abduction.

Authorities across the country had been looking for Edmunds because a Salt Lake City milkman recalled seeing a suspicious car near the Smart home two days before the kidnapping. The milkman recalled part of the license plate number and passed it along to police, who linked the information to Edmunds.

Those license plates, stolen from another car, were found last week on a road north of Salt Lake City.

In Martinsburg, hospital spokeswoman Teresa McCabe said Edmunds showed up at the emergency room about 5:15 a.m. Thursday. He allegedly gave hospital workers his mother's name and a valid telephone number, which led to his identification.

Authorities said Edmunds had given the hospital an alias. They also said he was being treated for a possible drug overdose, but they did not identify the drug.

"All along, Mr. Edmunds is someone we've wanted to talk to," Dinse said. "He's a question mark, and we want to put a period on that question mark."

Police have more than 400 leads, some of them promising, Dinse said, but "we don't have a clear suspect in any one of them."

A vehicle fitting the description of the Saturn sedan Edmunds was driving was found in the hospital's parking lot. West Virginia state police impounded the car, which will be searched for clues in the case, Dinse said.

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