WHITE COUNTY, Ga. — Authorities say a body found in a Lumpkin County river Wednesday is a Cherokee County woman who was reported missing early Monday morning.
The body of Belinda Butterfield, 34, was recovered from the Chestatee River near Dahlonega.
Police said Butterfield vanished after getting into the rain-swollen river around 4:30 a.m. Monday in White County. Investigators say Butterfield was last seen by family members in the waters of the Tesnatee Creek.
Channel 2's Richard Elliot was with the family at their home when they got the news of the discovery about three-quarters of a mile from where Butterworth was last seen.
Elliot spoke to Butterfield's cousin, Stacey Cowart, who said the two women were more like sisters. She told Elliot she's barely slept since the news her cousin disappeared into the water two days ago.
Cowert said Butterfield was along the riverbank with her mother well before dawn -- and she still has a lot of questions about exactly what happened.
"Apparently she slid down the slide over there and got mud on her, so she wanted to go in and try to rinse off," Cowart said. "My aunt said she was talking to her one minute, and the next minute she was gone, you know. She didn't know what happened."
Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacey Jarrard said the river was swift and swollen by this past weekend's storms, and was probably more treacherous than Butterfield imagined when she went in.
Deputies say a man in a canoe found Butterfield's body. Jarrard said the man decided to search for her on his own.
"He had just thought that he would canoe that area just to see if he could help with the investigation and try to locate that missing person," Jarrard said. "Unfortunately, he did locate a person this morning."
Coward said she is heartbroken, but she is especially worried for Butterworth's 8-year-old daughter.
"Now this baby, I mean, she's 8," Cowart said. "But how's she going to know... truly know, how special she was to her mother?"
Investigators are still trying to figure out why Butterworth got into the muddy water so early in the morning. In the meantime, Jarrard asked for prayers for the family.
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