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Visitors report abduction, law officials find nothing in search

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez Police Lt. Craig Godbold, center, debriefs Natchez Police officers and Sheriff's Office officers after an extensive manhunt took place in the woods surrounding the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez on Friday afternoon. Witnesses claimed they saw two men, possibly with a weapon, enter the woods with an woman. Witness also said the three people then left the scene on a all terrain vehicle. The search, which included a Sheriff's Office helicopter, did not locate any ATV tracks or signs of a struggle.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez Police Lt. Craig Godbold, center, debriefs Natchez Police officers and Sheriff’s Office officers after an extensive manhunt took place in the woods surrounding the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez on Friday afternoon. Witnesses claimed they saw two men, possibly with a weapon, enter the woods with an woman. Witness also said the three people then left the scene on a all terrain vehicle. The search, which included a Sheriff’s Office helicopter, did not locate any ATV tracks or signs of a struggle.

By LINDSEY SHELTON & VERSHAL HOGAN

NATCHEZ — Law enforcement officers scoured the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians Friday afternoon with K-9 dogs and a helicopter searching for a woman reportedly abducted, but after searching for hours, officials say they found no evidence anyone was actually abducted.

Natchez Police Detective Jerry Ford said two out-of-town visitors said they were sitting on mound when they noticed two men with a blonde woman at the edge of a wooded area on the grounds. The woman, the visitors said, appeared to be whimpering like she was crying, Ford said.

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Department investigator Joe Belling, from left, officer Vince Bates and investigator David Washington listen as Godbold brings them up to speed.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez Police Department investigator Joe Belling, from left, officer Vince Bates and investigator David Washington listen as Godbold brings them up to speed.

One of the visitors initially reported that one of the men had a gun but later told police she was not sure if the men had a gun, Ford said.

The visitors said they saw the men get on two green and black four-wheelers with the woman and take off through the woods.

One visitor said she called out to the men, but they did not stop. The visitors reportedly went to the edge of the woods but could not see the men.

The visitors reported they took photographs of the men, but Ford said he saw the photographs and could not make out any men or woman in the photographs.

Grand Village Historian Becky Anderson said the historical site staff called the Natchez Police after the visitors reported what they believed they saw.

Ford said law enforcement spent nearly three hours searching for the suspects and the kidnapped woman, but could not find anything to prove the visitors’ story.

The sheriff’s office’s helicopter and K-9 dogs tracked the trail the visitors said they saw the suspects take, as well as other surrounding areas in the village, Ford said.

The suspects, Ford said, could not have taken a four-wheeler in the direction the visitors said they did because the terrain features a steep drop-off into St. Catherine Creek that would not allow a four-wheeler to cross the creek.

“There’s no way they could have gone down that, crossed the creek and went up it without someone getting seriously injured,” he said.

Ford said police did find four-wheeler tracks near creek.

“But we were told there are people logging out there and riding four-wheelers all the time,” he said. “There’s no way we could prove those tracks are (the suspects’).”

The creek that runs past the Grand Village also runs near Trinity Episcopal Day School.

Trinity Head of School Les Hegwood said he heard of the search from a concerned parent and had all of the aftercare students who were still at the school taken inside and the building put on lockdown.

“We had a pretty empty house with spring break coming up, but we did that simply because of the proximity (to the Grand Village) and because a creek is a natural thing to follow along if you are in the woods,” Hegwood said. “We weren’t told to do this by any officials, it was just something we did in the name of precaution.”

Anderson said no one was allowed into the park area of the Grand Village while the police were at the scene, but the museum remained open and actually saw some business.

“It has actually been busier with the tourists since the cops showed up,” Anderson said.

Because the Grand Village is a state historical site, no firearms or ATVs are allowed on the premises, Anderson said.

Ford said police are still keeping their eyes open in case there are any new developments, but he said as of 5 p.m., the department had received no missing persons reports.

“Just from looking at the evidence, I don’t see how it’s possible,” he said.

Anyone with any information about the possible abduction should call NPD at 601-445-5565 or Crime Stoppers at 601-442-5000.

Crime Stoppers offers a reward of up to $1,000 for a tip leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.