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Man indicted in 22-year-old murder

POSTED: December 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

State authorities reopened a 22-year-old cold murder case over the summer, and Thursday the man they believe responsible was indicted for murder.

Manford G. Bruenn was named a suspect in what authorities call the drug-related, shooting death of Donald Wade Smith, of Forest Park, in March 1986. Bruenn, who would now be 50, has not been located by authorities in the 22 years since the incident.  

Three others, Mary Cross, Donnie Woods and Mike Bryant, were convicted of kidnapping.   

Bruenn, who authorities have always considered the triggerman, disappeared from the area and was not indicted until Thursday.  

Authorities say Smith’s kidnapping and murder resulted from a cocaine transaction Smith could not pay for. The group drove Smith from Cobb County to Dawson County where he was shot once in the head.   

According to authorities, his body was recovered on the edge of a creek in northwestern Dawson County.   

The investigation grew cold once Bruenn disappeared, and was reopened earlier this year by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Cobb County Police Department. 

Bruenn was also charged with kidnapping Smith by Cobb County Police, but he disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown. 

Bruenn was last seen in the early 1990s and has family in Milwaukee, Wis., said GBI spokesperson John Bankhead.   

Investigators say he may also be hiding in the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas.  

“We don’t know where he is. We don’t even know if he is dead or alive,” Bankhead said.  

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney John Wilbanks said his office worked closely with authorities to bring the evidence against Bruenn to the Dawson County Grand Jury for an indictment. 

“GBI doesn’t close homicide investigations. We assign them to another agent to take a fresh look at the evidence,” Bankhead said.  

Agent Mitchell Posey reorganized and presented the case to Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh, who determined sufficient evidence to present to the grand jury, according to Bankhead.  

Former GBI Special Agent John Cagle, who now runs criminal investigations for the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, said the bureau has made a push to reopen cold homicide cases as of late. A similar 20-year-old murder case in Fannin County was also indicted last month, he said.    

The bureau was also able to make an arrest in a cold robbery and murder at a McDuffie County convenience store, Bankhead said.  

“An agent took a look at the evidence on file and found evidence we didn’t have the technology to process when the murder happened,” he said.  

Agents ran a fingerprint on file through the fingerprint database and “made a hit and arrested a suspect,” Bankhead said.   

Anyone with information on Bruenn is asked to call the GBI tip line at 1-800-597-TIPS (8477).

 

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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