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Edmunds still in serious condition at hospital

June 24, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A drifter sought for questioning in the high-profile disappearance of a Utah teenager remained in serious condition Sunday afternoon at City Hospital near Martinsburg, said a hospital spokeswoman.

"He's improving but still seriously ill," said nursing supervisor Mary Gay, adding that Bret Michael Edmunds is still expected to be kept in the hospital for several more days.

Gay could not provide more details about Edmunds' condition.

Hospital officials have declined to be specific about Edmunds' illness, citing confidentiality rules.

The hospital, where hordes of national media gathered Friday once the news spread that Edmunds was there, started taking on a more laid-back atmosphere Sunday.

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Gay said it appeared that the only people around Edmunds Sunday were the guards securing his room.

Edmunds, 26, was sought for questioning as a possible witness to the June 5 abduction of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City. Police repeatedly have said they do not consider him a suspect.

In other developments, the FBI on Saturday searched the Saturn automobile being used by Edmunds, FBI spokesman Kevin Eaton said. The car, left in the parking lot of City Hospital, was photographed, impounded and towed away.

The search warrant did not allow a vacuum search to gather fibers or hair, but Edmunds allowed FBI agents to conduct a full search, Eaton said.

"He gave us permission to search that car however we wanted," Eaton said.

Results of the search were not available.

David Joel, a U.S. Magistrate who works in the U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, said he did not sign the search warrant.

Joel, who just returned from a trip out of town, said on Sunday that any federal or state judge in Martinsburg could have issued the warrant.

Edmunds was cooperating with investigators during Saturday interviews, Eaton said. Doctors monitored Edmunds' condition to ensure he was up to the questioning.

"He's talking to us. He's not telling us, 'go away, I want a lawyer,'" Eaton said.

Outside the hospital Sunday, the number of media organizations waiting for the latest news began to decline. Some of the Salt Lake City television news crews had left, as well as Baltimore and Washington news organizations that had set up shop in the parking lot, reporters said.

Laura Bernardini was part of a group of news crews still at the hospital Sunday from organizations like Fox, CBS and CNN.

Bernardini said the story was getting trickier to cover because it is not known when Edmunds will be released from the hospital, or other details.

Bernardini, a producer with CNN, said she and her crew were staying there Sunday afternoon because they had to do a live shot at 6 p.m.

"We're in the wait. It's a matter of not knowing," Bernardini said.

The news crews, some with big trucks with satellite equipment mounted on top, were in an area of the hospital parking lot that was cordoned off with yellow tape.

When news crews arrived at the hospital Saturday morning, hospital staff brought out coffee, juice and doughnuts to journalists.

On Sunday, reporters sat under trees in fold-out chairs, fielding cell phone calls about the Edmunds story and discussing details surrounding the event.

Some camera equipment was prepared as if it might be needed at any minute.

Hallways in the hospital were quiet and there was no sign of police. A nursing official inside said the FBI would not allow reporters to enter the section of the hospital where Edmunds is being kept.

Several calls to the FBI field office in Martinsburg were not returned Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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