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'We can bring her home now,' says mother of missing Georgia woman

By the CNN Wire Staff
A large banner seeks information about Kristi Cornwell, a Georgia woman who has been missing since 2009.
A large banner seeks information about Kristi Cornwell, a Georgia woman who has been missing since 2009.
  • NEW: The brother of the missing woman finds her remains
  • NEW: "I know in my heart she's in heaven," says Kristi Cornwell's mother
  • Positive ID is made through dental records
  • The bones were found about 9 miles from where Cornwell was last seen

Read local coverage from CNN affiliate WSB.

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- The mother of Kristi Cornwell, whose remains were discovered nearly a year and a half after she disappeared, said on Monday she is thankful to finally be able to bring her daughter home.

"We didn't want it to end this way, but that's the way it is. And we can bring her home now," said Jo Ann Cornwell, fighting back tears. "I know in my heart she's in heaven and we'll see her again."

She spoke the same day authorities said tests conducted on bones found in Georgia revealed they are Kristi Cornwell's remains.

The positive identification was made through dental records, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Kristi Cornwell, 38, was last seen walking along a road in northern Georgia the night of August 11, 2009.

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Her brother, acting off a tip from the bureau, found the remains Saturday in a wooded area about 9 miles from where she was last seen.

The site where the bones were discovered is in Union County, in far northern Georgia.

Investigators believe Cornwell's disappearance could be related to a December 2009 incident in Ranger, North Carolina, in which a woman was attacked by a man driving a late model Nissan Xterra, the GBI said.

In April, investigators were led to the home of 42-year-old James Scott Carringer, who was suspected of rape in Gilmer County, Georgia. Carringer, who killed himself as police tried to arrest him on the rape charges, also owned a silver Xterra and was originally from Brasstown, North Carolina, not far from Ranger, the GBI said.

Beyond those details, the bureau did not specify why investigators believe the two cases are linked.

"Because we have no direct evidence, this will remain an active and open investigation at GBI. We are still pursuing investigative leads as they relate to Carringer," said GBI Director Vernon Keenan.

He said investigators were led to the area where Kristi's remains were discovered by cell phone records that indicated Carringer had been nearby the night she disappeared.

"We believe that he was a career criminal and we do not know how much harm he has done," said Keenan.

Last summer, on the one-year anniversary of Cornwell's disappearance, the GBI said it had conducted interviews at 450 houses in the Union County area, and that its file on the case had grown to 40 volumes.

CNN's Tina Burnside contributed to this report.