Wetumpka murder suspect on the loose

WETUMPKA, AL (WSFA) - Elmore County investigators are actively searching for a suspect they believe shot and killed a Wetumpka girl in her home on Hickory Drive.

Authorities say the suspect killed 20-year Anna Cardwell and promptly stole her car--ditching it in the Wetumpka Winn Dixie parking lot.

Now, family and friends are left to mourn Cardwell's death as officials try to track down the killer.

Holtville High School Principal Jimmy Hull says he often ran into Anna Cardwell out in the community.

Not only was she a student at his school 2 years ago, she was a friend, too.

"Anna was a close friend of my mother's, worked with her at the store here in town, had babysat my children before.  I know her mother from the pharmacy, so it's very devastating for this entire community."

Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin says Anna was killed between 9 and 10am Wednesday morning.

Her mother wasn't there, but when she came home a short time later she found her daughter...dead.

News of the murder quickly spread throughout town, including at Holtville High.

"Things kind of shut down for a while as everybody was trying to figure out what was going on and what had happened," says Hull.

"I was in Tuskegee at the time and he wanted me to come home right then," says Bernice Dawson.

Dawson grew up in the house next to Anna's. She says when she heard about the shooting, her father--who still lives there--asked her to come home.

"He didn't know what was going on but he told me he believed every sheriff car in the county was here."

Dawson recalls the last time she saw Anna--petting her horses.

"She fit right in out here in the country."

"Free spirit, fun to be around, just loved life," says Hull.

While friends remember Anna, they also mourn for her family--now forced to cope with the unthinkable.

"I just cannot imagine what could be going through their minds right now," says Dawson.

Principal Hull says counselors are at the high school to help students deal with Cardwell's death. Sheriff Franklin says investigators are still trying to figure out a motive for the crime. So far, they don't have any evidence to prove this was the result of a burglary attempt.

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