The victim of yesterday’s Calhoun County kidnapping “could have been anyone,” according to Sheriff Matthew Wade.
Instead, it was a woman known to most area law enforcement and emergency workers for almost three decades as a steady, steadying presence at crime scenes and accident sites.
“She’s a super, super woman,” said Calhoun County Coroner Pat Brown about Betty Cobb, 75, who was found Monday, bound with duct tape in the closet of an Anniston home hours after she was snatched from her home on Choccolocco Road in rural Calhoun County.
Wade said investigators believe Cobb was followed home, after an Independence Day shopping trip, by 47-year-old Tony Lamar White of Anniston, who is currently the subject of an intense manhunt.
White, who has had previous arrests for domestic violence and third-degree robbery, faces charges of kidnapping and burglary. Authorities say he did not know Cobb before he abducted her while she was unloading groceries.
Authorities believe Cobb’s abduction may be linked to two sexual assaults dating back almost a decade.
“He followed her from that store to another store and to another store and then to her home,” Wade said today at a morning press conference.
“He just identified her from perusing the parking lot.”
Wade said White forced Cobb into the trunk of her car, took her to his home on South Wilmer Avenue in Anniston, and assaulted her with a knife before binding her and stowing her in a closet.
He fled the home shortly before law enforcement arrived.
Cobb was hospitalized with bruises and abrasions, Wade said.
Brown said he has known Cobb for more than 25 years, and described her as, “like the den mother.”
“I say this in the most respectful way,” Brown said.
“She has worked at Quad Cities Volunteer Fire Department for years. Even in older age, she still contributes. She is the most polite lady. Families love her. She’s always on the scene when there’s an event in her area. She’s always the first one to smile at you, give you a hug, ask you how you’ve been.
“When I saw it was her yesterday, it hit a little closer to home,” Brown said.
Wade called Cobb “a difference maker.”
“She’s well known to me personally, and to almost every law enforcement officer in our county,” he said. “She’s a servant...She’s a sweet lady. She serves, she gave to others.”
Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge said he was “thankful” Cobb was found alive.
“I’ve known this lady for over 30 years, and she’s a precious soul who’s done so much for her community,” he said. “She’s always trying to help people. I was kind of in shock when I found out who it was. I was praying to God that we would find her safe. Usually those types of incidents don’t turn out well.”
Brown said Cobb and her husband both volunteered for the fire department. When she was reported missing Monday, news of the victim brought out many who just wanted to help.
What no one expected, he said, was for her to be found alive.
“I think most everybody, including the volunteers, wanted to do something,” Brown said. “I’ve been doing this for nearly two decades, and I’ll tell you, it just doesn’t ever end that way. While you’re hopeful, you are also a realist. You could not call Hollywood and have them think it’s believable.”