WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - The family of the main suspect in the disappearance of a Walnut Ridge teen speaks out. They say the sexual abuse allegations against John Cornell are tarnishing the name of the man they knew as a jovial, family man.
"He was a good guy, he was a sportsman," John's father, Bill Cornell told Region 8 News.
A corner of his home is dedicated to his first born son's memory.
"Jane did all the pictures, I did the flower arrangement," John's sister Laurie explained.
Cornell was the main suspect in the disappearance of his step daughter, 14-year-old Sidney Randall.
"That was dad. That was her father...that was dad," Laurie said. "John always kept his head up and he was proud to be there for them kids. He loved them kids."
Cornell was found dead a little over a day after Sidney's reported disappearance. Preliminary investigations deemed his death suicide.
"That's my first born son," Bill said. "We have an attachment to our first born...and I know he did not do this and I know he did not kill himself."
John's family said they don't believe the rumors of sexual abuse either. When asked if they believe other people were involved in what happened. John's sister, Lea Cornell, said yes.
"I think it's being covered up. I think that people are going to great lengths to keep the truth from coming out," Lea said.
They also plea for open mindedness from the public as the investigation continues.
"John could be just as much of a victim. And I hate that he'd have to be slandered like this," Lea said.
As much as they wish for their brother's name to be cleared, they more so want Sidney, who they believe is alive and well, to come home.
"We need answers," Laurie said. "Sidney, if you're out there, come home, it's gonna be okay. We love you and we'll stand with you."
"We would do anything to have her back. To protect her, to look after her. To have the whole family back," Lea said.
Cornell's family said they are continuously working to find Sidney and urge any one with information regarding her disappearance contact the Walnut Ridge Police Department.