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Police Search for Man Seen Near Site of Girl's Kidnapping

SALT LAKE CITY, June 12 — A man with a criminal record who was spotted near the home of a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped at gunpoint here last week became the focus of the case today as law enforcement officials asked the public for information on his whereabouts.

The authorities said the man was not a suspect in the abduction of the girl, Elizabeth Ann Smart, but was wanted for questioning by detectives.

The authorities have identified the man as Bret Michael Edmunds, 26, who has no known permanent address but who they believe is a transient who lives in his car and may still be in the Salt Lake City area. Sgt. Fred Louis of the Salt Lake City Police Department said a milkman noticed him driving slowly near the Smart family's house two days before the abduction and called the authorities. The milkman, Charlie Miller, told them that the man was driving a 1997 green Saturn with a Utah license plate that included the numbers 266.

That information was enough to lead detectives to Mr. Edmunds, who is wanted on two warrants, one involving fraud and the other involving assaulting a police officer.

Members of the Smart family said they were encouraged by the latest development and believed a break in the case could be imminent. But Tom Smart, the girl's uncle, who often speaks for the family, said Elizabeth's relatives "don't know when `imminent' may be."

Sergeant Louis was careful in describing the interest in Mr. Edmunds.

He said the possibility that Mr. Edmunds was near the Smart house in Federal Heights, combined with his criminal past, made him an obvious person for detectives to interview. Late today, Sergeant Louis said, they still did not know where he was.

Sergeant Louis said Mr. Miller noticed Mr. Edmunds before the abduction, which occurred after 1 a.m. Thursday.

In an interview today with CNN, Mr. Miller said he had read a newspaper article in which the intruder was described as a man who wore a white baseball cap. Mr. Miller said the man he saw in the car was wearing what appeared to be such a cap. But he said Mr. Edmunds appeared to "fit the small profile, low demeanor in sitting in the seat, not a big person."

That description seemed to conflict with one provided today by the authorities. Sergeant Louis described Mr. Edmunds as a white man, 6-foot-2 and weighing about 235 pounds.

Mr. Smart said Elizabeth's parents, Edward and Lois, and other adults in the family had seen a photograph of Mr. Edmunds and had not recognized the man.

But Mr. Smart said he did not believe that the photo had yet been shown to Elizabeth's younger sister, Mary Catherine, 9, who was in the bedroom at the time of the abduction.

The family has told investigators that the intruder warned Mary Catherine not to tell her parents. Two hours after her sister was taken away, she woke them up.

Interest in Mr. Edmunds came on a day when investigators scaled back their search for Elizabeth, narrowing the focus to city neighborhoods near the Smart house. For the last few days, investigators and volunteers had expanded their search to as far as 50 miles in any direction from the house.

Mr. Edmunds is the second man the authorities have said they were seeking for information. Last weekend, they released a composite sketch of a man who was quickly found and determined to have nothing to do with the case.

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