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Missing Georgia mother of three found dead

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says the body of a missing northwest Georgia mother has been found.

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said Thursday the medical examiner identified the remains as Heather McDonald, 27. She had been missing from Cartersville, Georgia, since mid-September.

The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office will perform the autopsy to determine the cause of death.

U.S. Marshal Service spokesman Jim Joyner tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Richard Dale Harden was a person of interest in the disappearance of McDonald. Joyner says Harden was arrested on a warrant for sex offender registry violation. The paper reports Harden was shot during his arrest and taken to the hospital for treatment.

The Cartersville Police Department is leading the missing person investigation, and Lt. Michael Bettikofer told CBS News’ Crimesider they are not confirming a person of interest in the investigation. 

McDonald, a mother of three, was last seen Sept. 18, the paper reports. A tip led the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to believe the woman was last seen in the parking lot of a Courtesy Inn, and investigators reportedly found the woman’s Jeep Wrangler in the lot with the doors wide open, her keys on the ground and her ID and cellphone missing.

At the time of her disappearance, her husband told CBS affiliate WGCL his wife had been under some stress and had been displaying some erratic behavior, but “nothing that would indicate that she was just going to disappear – she wouldn’t go this long without reaching out to her kids.”

In a statement released to the station following the news of her death, McDonald’s family said, “Our world is rocked.”

“We have had nothing but the highest hopes of seeing Heather again since she disappeared over six weeks ago,” the statement read.

Harden was convicted in 1989 on a count of enticing a child for indecent purposes, and is a registered sex offender, according to online records. He was reportedly released from prison in 2010.

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