Feds Arrest Man As Alabama Cops Search for Missing Wife, Her Daughter

Search teams Friday were combing 40 hilly acres in northeast Alabama for an 11-year-old girl and her mother, and the woman's husband was in federal custody on an unrelated weapons charge.

Kim Whitton, 26, and her daughter, Haleigh Culwell, were reported missing two weeks ago by her co-workers. Her husband, whose first wife was killed and buried in the area, told investigators she had left him, sheriff's officials said.

Barry Whitton was arrested Thursday. Nearly 10 years earlier, the body of his first wife, Michelle Whitton, was found partially buried in the hills of a neighboring town. Police never made an arrest in that case or disclosed how she was killed.

No bail had been set for Barry Whitton, whose initial hearing was set for Tuesday. It was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.

Whitton, who wore a beard and dressed like an Amish farmer, lived in the log cabin near his father, Dennis Whitton, according to local residents, still puzzled over the death of his first wife.

"I really wish they'd find them," said Jessica Godwin, a clerk at the Handi-Stop store, located about five miles from the search scene. "We want it to be over with."

About 100 state, federal and local law officers swarmed over property Thursday and Friday around Barry Whitton's log home on Sand Mountain. The site has a small sawmill where Whitton cuts lumber.

Jackson County District Attorney Charlie Rhodes said the bulk of the search was completed by Friday evening, and he expected it to be finished within two more days by local officers.

A pond on the 40 acres belonging to Whitton was drained Friday. Cadaver dogs were brought to the site to search it. FBI spokesman Paul Daymond declined to comment on the progress of the search or what led searchers to the pond.

Kim Whitton and Haleigh were last seen June 21, and were reported missing June 28 by Kim Whitton's co-workers at Cloverdale Manor nursing home.

Barry Whitton, 38, was charged with a weapons possession count that FBI spokesman Charles Regan of Birmingham is unrelated to the disappearance of his wife and stepdaughter. He previously had been convicted of receiving stolen property in 1988 and 1991, U.S. attorney's office spokeswoman Jill Ellis said.