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Police: Foul play possible in missing fiancee case

Search classified as a criminal investigation


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Maj. Don Woodruff
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Police official discusses missing bride-to-be.
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Georgia
Missing persons

(CNN) -- Police said Thursday that the search for a Georgia bride-to-be who disappeared while jogging has been classified as a criminal investigation.

CNN anchor Bill Hemmer spoke with Maj. Don Woodruff of the Duluth Police Department about the disappearance of 32-year-old Jennifer Wilbanks.

HEMMER: Earlier today, you said this is now classified as a criminal investigation. Why is that, sir?

WOODRUFF: Well, yesterday, we did a massive search. We had over 250 people out searching the area, volunteers and law enforcement.

We had canines on the ground and helicopters in the air. We were unable to find any trace of her.

Based on the circumstances as reported to us by the family, we feel we have no other option at this point than to classify it as a criminal investigation.

HEMMER: When you put it in that category then, is that to suggest that you have evidence of a crime?

WOODRUFF: Well, at the present time, we have no physical evidence that suggests that, but at the same time, we feel based on the circumstances of her disappearance, according to the family members and friends, this is totally uncharacteristic of her.

It's been suggested by some that she had pre-marital jitters. Family and friends completely dismissed that and said that this is totally out of her character. And that being the case, we feel we have to classify it as a criminal investigation and proceed forward in that respect.

HEMMER: It is my understanding her fiance said that he checked the hospitals in the area before he called police. Did he say why he did that?

WOODRUFF: I haven't spoken to him, so I couldn't answer that.

HEMMER: You haven't talked to the fiance?

WOODRUFF: I haven't. The investigators have talked him.

HEMMER: What did the investigators tell you about how they gauged the relationship now? Was it strong? Was it healthy?

WOODRUFF: Well, according to the investigators, they've interviewed him at least twice. They found him to be very cooperative and helpful in everything that they've tried to do. And so that's how we're classify it at this time.

HEMMER: Do you consider him or anyone else suspicious?

WOODRUFF: Well I'd say this investigation is fairly new. It would be premature to classify anyone as a suspect at this time.

HEMMER: The search was called off last night, right? Will it resume today?

WOODRUFF: Well, yesterday, we did a massive search over the entire area. We expanded the search to cover a great deal of distance, and we were unable to find her.

We made the more limited searching today with law-enforcement professionals to be looking for evidence that might have been overlooked by some of the civilian volunteers.

HEMMER: Well, let me take that a step further. What do you mean by limited search? What does that mean?

WOODRUFF: Well, go back over some of the same areas with law- enforcement people only to be looking for any evidence that may be there, that may have been overlooked.

HEMMER: So then a full-scale search will not continue today, right?

WOODRUFF: That is correct. We will not be on the same massive scale as yesterday.

HEMMER: And from an investigative standpoint then, help me understand why that decision would be made?

WOODRUFF: Why that decision would it be made? Because we didn't find her yesterday.

HEMMER: Why not a full-scale search?

WOODRUFF: We did that yesterday and we didn't find her.

HEMMER: Do you have any reason to think right now there's foul play?

WOODRUFF: Well, again, based on the circumstances of this situation, the family and friends are insistent that this is totally out of character for her. And as such being the case, that's a good possibility at this point. We don't know.

HEMMER: One more thing here. You talked about the limited search today. What areas will you be looking for that you went over yesterday that you need to double-check?

WOODRUFF: Well, we go back to some of the same areas that we were yesterday, in a more controlled fashion, with law-enforcement professionals looking for evidence.


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