Utah authorities say kidnapped girl's relatives investigated, but not only focus of search

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Police acknowledged Thursday that they were looking at the extended family of the teen girl apparently kidnapped at gunpoint from her home, but they said it was not the main avenue of the investigation.

``I would say (it is) one of many theories,'' said Salt Lake Police Capt. Scott Atkinson. On the ninth day of the search for 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, police also were looking at the neighborhood and everyone who knows the teen.

In a story in Thursday editions, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that detectives believe a family member could have been involved because they have been unable to explain how the abductor could have entered the house through the small window that appeared to be the entry point.

It said investigators have surmised that a window screen appeared to have been cut from the inside, possibly to make it look like a break-in.

The newspaper said its information came from four sources. But detective Dwayne Baird told The Associated Press that ``whoever made reference to four law enforcement sources was not referring to the inner circle'' of investigators.

Elizabeth's extended family is large. Her mother, Lois, is the second-youngest of eight siblings; her father, Ed, is the second-oldest of six. She has at least 70 first cousins.

On Thursday afternoon, David Francom, Elizabeth's uncle, told reporters the family isn't concerned about the newspaper's report and that they know it's ``police procedure.''

``We have full faith and confidence in the investigation,'' he said. ``We have cooperated in every way that we have been asked.''

The newspaper report followed a day of intense hunting for a 26-year-old transient who police said might have information about the teen's disappearance. Bret Michael Edmunds was identified through a partial license plate number provided by a milkman who had seen a car in the neighborhood June 3, two days before the kidnapping.

The license plate was found by two children digging in a ditch Thursday night in a park in Centerville, a suburb north of Salt Lake City police said.

A statement signed by Ed Smart said the family had looked at Edmunds' photograph and did not recognize him.

Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine Smart, described the kidnapper as a 5-foot-8-inch man. Edmunds is 6 feet 2 inches tall and 235 pounds.

``We don't think he's a suspect at this point,'' police spokesman Fred Louis said Wednesday.

Edmunds was being sought for parole violation and assault on a police officer. He had served 60 days and been put on probation in 2000 for stealing and forging checks.