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    Baker County candidate for sheriff still missing

    By ROBIN MITCHELL

    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000


    Another day passed Wednesday, and no Buddy Pendleton.

    While just about everyone in Baker County, population 22,000, was out looking for him or keeping an eye out for the missing Republican candidate for sheriff, Julian "Buddy" Pendleton remained missing.

    "It is a mysterious case," said Baker Sheriff Joey Dobson, the Democrat incumbent. "We are working it as a missing persons case.

    "We have no reason to believe any foul play was involved."

    Pendleton, 35, vanished Saturday afternoon before a campaign forum. His abandoned pickup was found near his home, the door slightly open, key in the ignition and cellular phone on the seat.

    His family earlier this week said there was bitterness between Pendleton and Dobson, and that Pendleton had been threatened by deputies about his campaign.

    "Let me say this, I don't want to get into that now," said Dobson. "The focus is on finding Mr. Pendleton. There have been some situations in the past that Mr. Pendleton has put this Sheriff's Office in. It really goes back to a domestic situation he was involved in a few years ago."

    Pendleton also recently got a traffic citation, received a warning six weeks ago for being disorderly at a grocery store and in June was caught by deputies dumping 50 pounds of sugar in a park to draw ants to disrupt the sheriff's re-election campaign kickoff cookout.

    Dobson said his office and two agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are looking into hints that Pendleton had planned on leaving. He dropped off his four children at his ex-wife's house recently and broke up with a girlfriend Friday night.

    Investigators are perusing Pendleton's phone records and have interviewed people in nearby St. George, Ga., where Pendleton lived before returning to his aunt's home three months ago, setting up residency to challenge Dobson.

    "We're hoping in just a short period of time to be able to have something encouraging," said Dobson.

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