Lead quashed in case of missing Utah girl
LITTLEFIELD, Texas (CNN) -- Dashing hopes for a break in a week-old kidnapping case, investigators in west Texas said a man suspected in a string of thefts Friday is not the man police want to question in the disappearance of a Utah girl.
Officials with the Lamb County Sheriff's Department said the man taken into custody on suspicion of shoplifting Friday was not 26-year-old Bret Michael Edmunds. Police in Utah want to question Edmunds in connection with disappearance of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped at gunpoint from her bedroom in the early hours of June 5.
Police describe Elizabeth's abductor as a 5-foot-8 white man, wearing a white jacket and white baseball cap and armed with a black handgun.
Edmunds was last seen in the Smarts' posh Salt Lake City neighborhood several days before the teenager was abducted. Police said Edmunds, described as white, 6-feet-2 and 235 pounds, is not a suspect.
Thursday night, Utah authorities discovered license plates believed to have been on Edmunds' car, which police said is a 1997 Saturn. Edmunds apparently lives in the car and does not have a job.
Elizabeth Smart's parents gave a news conference Friday in which they repeated a message to their daughter: "Elizabeth, we love you, the world loves you. We want you to know that you'll be home soon. Be strong know that Heavenly Father's with you," her mother, Lois Smart, said.
"As hard as this has been for our family, the response has been overwhelming," said Ed Smart, the girl's father.
Investigators returned to the Smarts' sprawling 6,600-square-foot home in Salt Lake City's Federal Heights neighborhood Thursday with police dogs and questioned her 9-year-old sister, who witnessed the abduction, for a fifth time.
Mary Catherine Smart was sleeping in the room with Elizabeth and is the only known witness to the abduction. Authorities say the girl has been cooperative in the interviews and has provided useful information about the abductor.
"If she had recognized the person and been able to give us a name or recognize it as being a family member, we believe she probably would have told us that," Capt. Scott Atkinson said.
They said they have used polygraph tests in their questioning of numerous people, including family members, a practice they said is routine in a missing person case.
"I don't think that we are putting any more weight on this particular theory than we have on any others," Atkinson said.
Asked whether the extended family was the primary focus of the investigation, Atkinson said: "I wouldn't characterize it like that."
A law enforcement source told CNN the results of a lie-detector test on an extended family member were inconclusive. Asked about the implications, the source said, "You want to keep looking at the person."
The source said police will see if the person has an alibi for the night Elizabeth disappeared.
All polygraph tests have been administered to males, including Ed Smart, the source said.
Atkinson said the family was under no more scrutiny than others in the neighborhood, and he described family members as "very cooperative."
Amid the ongoing search, the family held out hope that the 5-foot-6-inch, 108-pound blonde girl is still alive.
"They're very positive and very enthusiastic and very, very spiritually uplifted and hopeful that this will have a happy ending," said Andrew McGregor, who is heading the volunteer search efforts.
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