Updated:UNION COUNTY, Ga.,None — It was Kristi Cornwell's brother who found her remains during a one-man search in Union County, authorities announced at a news conference Monday.
Kristi Cornwell's Brother Finds Her Remains In Woods
Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had told the Cornwell family that they were planning to search the area again in January where Cornwell disappeared 16 months ago while walking near her parents' Union County home. The GBI said it was just waiting until they had enough manpower after the holidays.
But Cornwell's brother, Richard, didn't want to wait any longer, and went out to that wooded area over the weekend, and found his sister.
"We're thankful that Kristi can how have a proper burial," said Richard Cornwell, who was very emotional while speaking to reporters.
GBI agents spent Sunday deep in the north Georgia woods collecting evidence. The GBI confirmed on Monday that human remains are those of Kristi Cornwell. A GBI forensic pathologist identified Cornwell's remains using dental records.
"Hopefully this discovery will bring some closure to the family as far as knowing where their daughter is," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead.
PHOTOS: Kristi Cornwell Case
Police said they think Cornwell was abducted near her Blairsville home Aug.11, 2009. The 38-year-old was last heard from while she walked along rural Jones Creek Road. Family members told police her boyfriend heard her screaming over the phone before she disappeared.
At a Monday news conference, officials said that James Scott Carringer is the prime suspect. The GBI said they have no direct evidence linking Carringer, but said he remains their prime suspect based on information that points to him. The area where Cornwell's remains were found is near a cell tower where Carringer's cell phone pinged the night Cornwell was abducted, authorities told Channel 2 Action News reporter Jodie Fleischer.
In January, investigators said they received a letter from an anonymous North Carolina woman stating that the sketch of a suspect in the attempted abduction of a woman in Ranger looked like her grandson. Police said they think the same man may have abducted Cornwell.
The grandmother also wrote in her letter that her grandson drove the same vehicle, a Nissan Xterra, seen in the area of the attempted abduction, and he was in Union County on the day of each attack.
In April, GBI investigators working on a rape case in Gilmer County said they uncovered information that led them to believe Carringer may have been involved in that case and the Cornwell case.
Carringer lived in Young Harris, a few miles from where Cornwell disappeared, and also drove a silver Nissan Xterra with a brush guard, according to authorities.
Agents executed search warrants and seized Carringer's two Xterras. Carringer shot and killed himself in a standoff with Atlanta police in Buckhead.
Law enforcement, GBI and FBI officials hunted for Cornwell across northeast Georgia and into North Carolina and Tennessee. After eight days, the ground search was called off, but the family didn't give up hope.
They set up a website, KristiCornwell.com, appealing for the public's help. They are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The GBI said they received 776 tip calls in the Cornwell case and conducted 450 interviews at neighboring houses during their investigation.