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Man linked to disappearance of wife, daughter, says they left in van with belongings

MONTGOMERY (AP)— A Jackson County man, who is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife and stepdaughter almost three months ago, says he gave them $20,000 and they left in a van loaded with their belongings, a member of the missing woman's family said Thursday.

Barry Whitton, 38, has been in jail on a weapons charge since July 12 when authorities searched his property near Section looking for his wife, Kimberly Whitton, 36, and his stepdaughter, Haleigh Culwell, 11, and found five weapons, including a loaded rifle and shotgun.

Whitton's attorney, Bruce Gardner of Huntsville, said Thursday his client will plead guilty to a federal charge of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms. But he said the plea has nothing to do with the disappearance of Whitton's wife and stepdaughter.

The missing woman's father, Jerry Compton, went to visit Whitton in jail to ask him what happened to his daughter, according to Pat Compton, who is Kimberly Whitton's stepmother. She said Barry Whitton told Jerry Compton that Kimberly Whitton and her daughter left after loading belongings in a white van.

Kimberly Whitton and her daughter have not been seen since she left her job at a Scottsboro nursing home June 21.

At a hearing in July, FBI Special Agent Curtis Parker testified that Whitton is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife and stepdaughter. He said Whitton is also a suspect in the death of his first wife, Michelle Whitton, whose body was found in January 1998. She died as a result of a blow to her head, the agent testified.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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