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Missing teen
found dead

Body of grandson of state senator located near vehicle abandoned on Interstate 20 in Georgia

From staff, AP reports

VILLA RICA, Ga. — The body of the teenage grandson of an Alabama state senator with family ties to Morgan County was found about 1,000 feet from where his vehicle was located last week, the senator said Tuesday.

State Sen. Jim Preuitt said Alabama state troopers notified him that the body found Tuesday afternoon was that of his 17-year-old grandson, Benjamin Stanford.

"Bless his heart. He was the apple of my eye. He was just so lovable. We can't believe it has happened," Preuitt told The Associated Press.

The teen was reported missing last week from Anniston, and police later found his 2007 silver Jeep Grand Cherokee some 75 miles away near Villa Rica.

Preuitt, a Democrat from Talladega, said his family was thankful for the love and support they've received from others, including other politicians and the public. Bill Stanford, a former Hartselle resident, and Lynne Stanford are the teen's parents.

A Moulton native and a graduate of Danville High School, Preuitt has a number of relatives in Morgan County.

Gene Preuitt of Hartselle is Preuitt's brother and Benjamin Stanford's great-uncle.

"We're just kind of empty right now. I don't know what to say," Gene Preuitt said. "I'm hurting so much for my brother and his wife and Bill and Lynne and what they're going through and what they're going to go through the rest of their lives. That boy was so young and everybody just loved him. He was just wonderful. Hopefully something can be found out about what happened and why it happened."

Gene Preuitt said a family member told him Stanford had apparently been shot. Authorities have not released an official cause of death.

"The whole thing is so strange," Gene Preuitt said. "So many things happen that don't make sense, but a 17-year-old boy? There's just no explanation for this. It's something we never expected to happen to our family."

Eddie Preuitt of Hartselle, also a great-uncle of Stanford, went to Talladega on Tuesday to be with the family. He was returning from Atlanta when he heard Stanford's body had been found, said his wife, Debbie Preuitt.

Jim Preuitt said the family had begun to fear the worst just before they received news of the teen's death.

"We're just trying to console one another now. We're just hoping the family can stay close and overcome this tragedy," Jim Preuitt said.

A prayer vigil for the teen and his family was held Sunday in the family chapel at the home of William Killough in Sylacauga.

Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens, who is heading up the multi-agency investigation, said someone used Stanford's credit card to purchase gas at the Texaco station on Alabama 77 North, near the entrance to Interstate 20, at about 9 a.m. on Nov. 5. Since then, there was no further activity on the card.

In Georgia, the Carroll County Sheriff's Department said Stanford's vehicle was found in the emergency lane of I-20 East. Its doors were unlocked and the passenger side door was left open. The keys were not in the vehicle.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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