No Word On Missing Woman And Daughter

Saturday, July 14th 2007, 7:58 pm
By: News On 6

SECTION, Ala. (AP) _ The remote, hilly property of a reclusive northeast Alabama man was quiet Saturday after a swarm of law officers ended a search without word on the whereabouts of his wife and her 11-year-old daughter.

Authorities used cadaver dogs to search Barry Whitton's 40-acre property in Macedonia, a scattered rural community near Section, and drained a pond there in the search for Kimberly Whitton and her daughter, Haleigh Culwell.

FBI spokesman Paul Daymond said Saturday that the search, which began Thursday, was called off Friday night, but that the investigation continues. He would not comment on any evidence that may have been discovered but said the two remain missing.

Barry Whitton, 38, has not been charged in the disappearances but is being held on a federal weapons count. The case renewed questions among townspeople about the death of Barry Whitton's first wife, whose body was found nearly a decade ago buried in the hills of a neighboring town.

Kimberly Whitton, 36, and her daughter have not been seen since she left her job at a Scottsboro nursing home June 21. Her truck was found near the log home she and her husband were building on their rural property, which is down a dirt road about a mile off a Jackson County highway.

``We feel like something bad has happened. She wouldn't have just left like this,'' said Pat Compton, stepmother of the missing woman.

Barry Whitton's father, Dennis Whitton, who lives nearby, drove a tractor off his son's property Saturday but had little to say.

``They're wasting their time,'' Dennis Whitton said of investigators. ``I'm not commenting about anything.''

Barry Whitton's 11-year-old son, Ethan, was found at the house Thursday when Whitton was arrested. The boy was placed in the custody of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, Compton said.

Local residents described Barry Whitton as a quiet man who wore dark overalls, a dark hat and had a long beard. They said he mostly kept to himself.

Brenda Hargiss, a clerk at Wilkes Grocery, several miles down the road from the Whitton property, said Whitton ``has a sawmill on his property and I think he would rather live off the land.''

She said the Whittons often visited the store to buy supplies. She described Haleigh as a ``sweet little girl'' and said Kimberly Whitton was nice but ``didn't have a lot to say.''

Barry Whitton was always polite, but people wondered about him, Hargiss said.

``It's in the back of our minds because of the other one,'' Hargiss said.

The body of Barry Whitton's first wife, Michelle Whitton, was found in a shallow grave covered by rocks in January 1998. Her husband told authorities she failed to return home after going to a fast-food restaurant the previous month, according to news reports at the time. Police never made an arrest or disclosed how she was killed.

Federal authorities said Whitton, convicted of receiving stolen property in 1988 and 1991, was arrested on a federal weapons charge. No bail had been set. His attorney, Bruce A. Gardner of Huntsville, did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment Saturday.

Posters of Kimberly Whitton and Haleigh are everywhere in the area. Hargiss said many residents are hoping they simply left and will call friends and relatives when they see news stories.

Compton has the same hope but doubts it will come true. Her stepdaughter was proud of her job at the nursing home, she said.

``She wouldn't have just left her job. She would not have left her truck,'' Compton said.